Arms of Kismet -- Alchemist of Postmodern Pop
Arms of Kismet's exciting new release Eponymous is a dark, satirical, humorous and sincere exploration of the richness of human emotion. Pent up inside it is a tidal wave of feeling that comes rushing out in a crashing surf of rock, alternative and pop.
Mark Doyon, aka Arms of Kismet (www.armsofkismet.com), gives an outstanding performance, drawing on a variety of inspired influences. His distinctive vocals, accompanied by tightly arranged, rock/pop-flavored guitar, bass, organ and piano, are reminiscent at times of Dylan, but with more feeling and polish.
Streaming MP3: "Karma Never Forgets"
"Playing live, I strip the songs down to their basics and make it about the vocals."
Doyon was raised in Northern Virginia by parents who supported his obsession with tape recorders, guitars and amplifiers. By the tender age of 14, he was creating rudimentary multitrack recordings by using a portable cassette player to capture acoustic guitar and playing it back while singing along to a second recorder. While the process was, in his words, 'incredibly cheesy,' the act of combining musical elements to create a whole was a revelation to the budding young talent.
In addition to experimenting with equipment, Doyon discovered vintage British rock such as the Beatles, Who, Kinks, Clash and Jam, prompting him to cover their tunes in bands during high school. He also took lessons from a country musician who taught him to love acoustic guitar. "I used that to create my own style and records," he said. "The '90s stuff (Wampeters) is still around."
Streaming MP3: "Beautiful Career"
"When something starts rattling around inside me, I just chase after it."
When asked what kind of equipment he used live and on Eponymous, Doyon explained, "Although the CD has a full-band sound, I like to keep things simple when I play live: just me and an amplified acoustic guitar. I like doing completely different versions of songs live and on record. On the CD, I used a half-dozen different guitars, pianos, organs, samples and loops. I arranged each song differently, but stuck to a vocabulary as far as the instrumentation went. Playing live, I strip the songs down to their basics and make it about the vocals."
This disparity is reflected in memorable songs from the new album. "When something starts rattling around inside me, I just chase after it. I don't necessarily know at first why it's there, or what I have to say about it. I just pursue it. I try not to be overly conscious of the process while it's going on.
Streaming MP3: "Hang"
"'Karma Never Forgets' is a song about poetic justice, about how actions come back to haunt or reward you in unexpected ways.
'Beautiful Career' is a playful poke at a singer-songwriter, somebody who could be me or could be somebody else. It's about a writer who puts himself before the song, which is always a bad idea.
'Are You My God' is about being accountable for who you are and what you do, and not casting yourself as some existential victim. We have ourselves to thank and ourselves to blame.
"I write more universally than personally. Songs have different meanings to different people. I draw from personal experience, but the songs are not about me, really. They're about everybody."
Streaming MP3: "Cuckold of Titan"
As to the origin of the name Arms of Kismet, Doyon said, "I think of how fate holds you close, of how it doesn't let you float away unless you try to break free of it. I also think of 'arms' as weapons of kismet, of providence -- the idea that what goes around comes around. We all get ours."
| Arms of Kismet on Tour
April 1 - Roanoke, VA
April 2 - Knoxville, TN
April 3 - Atlanta, GA
April 5 - Charleston, SC
April 6 - Charlotte, NC
April 7 - Chapel Hill, NC
April 8 - Richmond, VA
April 12 - Philadelphia, PA
April 13 - Williamsport, PA
April 14 - New York, NY
April 15 - Boston, MA
April 16 - Providence, RI
April 17 - New Haven, CT
April 19 - Baltimore, MD
So who influenced this eclectic artist? Bob Dylan, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Davies, Beck, Dan Bern, Aimee Mann, Neil Young, Lou Reed, Jonathan Richman, Graham Parker... all writers with a keen eye for detail about the human condition, who put real emotion into what they do.
Streaming MP3: "Are You My God"
Doyon put it this way: "The CD looks at what it's like to be born and not know why, what it's like to know death awaits but not when it's going to show up. Shifting gears between Americana, hip-hop and pop, it's got a sort of warm, analog vibe that sounds as natural in a coffeehouse as it does on a car radio."
And that runs the gamut for this listener!