Album release: 'Things Left Unsaid' by Kirt Debique
Release date: 23 October 2015
Label: Brick Lane Records
More info: Label website
There’s the family you’re born into and the family you choose. Kirt Debique crafted his debut album, 'Things Left Unsaid', as the intersection of the two. Conceived as a series of letters to parents and partners, siblings and strangers, its eight songs delve into themes of love, family, and loss. Although a divorce and some hard realizations incited the compositional process, the specifics of 'Things Left Unsaid' took shape later on, after the Seattle resident could view his subject matter with perspective.
'I had to look hard and closely at certain relationships in my life,' says Debique. 'But I'd gotten to a point where I felt I could reflect on them in a way that was healthy, and I feel like I'm a very different person since making this record.'
Although a specific concept and subject anchors each song, Debique intended 'Things Left Unsaid' to be digested as a whole album. “It was always going to be an overall story, and as I worked on the record the idea of speaking to these people and going on this transformative journey became clearer and clearer.”
A self-taught musician, Debique would begin with an idea—such as a future version of himself addressing his father (“Another Time”)—then coax forth vocal and piano melodies as the words unfolded. After developing the sonic ideas and textures in Ableton Live, he refined them further with members of his chosen family: the artists of Brick Lane, the independent record label he operates.
'I only got serious about making music about six or seven years ago,' he recalls. 'It was one of the few healthy ways of working through where I was at during a difficult time.' The act of making music fortified him, but so did the friendships that grew up around it. 'I've been around a loving community of reflective artists. People who spend a lot of time digging deep, and who hope to communicate the understandings they’ve found in a way that brings everybody forward together.'
And those musicians, in turn, helped him realize 'Things Left Unsaid'. Brick Lane artists Benjamin Verdoes (Iska Dhaaf) and Ephriam Nagler (You Are Plural) produced the record, and augmented Debique’s beats, vocals, and keyboards with additional instrumentation. Working together, they crafted arrangements that imbue Debique’s succinct songs and poetic sensibilities with added depth, reflecting the complex (and sometimes conflicted) emotions that drive them.
The end result recalls classics such as Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine and Depeche Mode’s Violator, albeit tempered with more light and hope than either of those touchstones. 'I was trying to achieve a certain axis of tension to get the listener to pay attention to the narrative,' he explains. 'There's a lot of intimate lyricism and melodic sensibility in there, but it's surrounded by aggressive textures and noise, too. I also wanted to balance the synthetic elements with organic ones.'
As for the music’s powerful rhythmic pull, Debique says he couldn’t have avoided it if he’d tried. 'That comes from growing up in Trinidad,' where calypso and steel drums punctuate the soundtrack of everyday life.
Even as the songs on 'Things Left Unsaid' have prompted Debique to forge ahead with challenging but important discussions with his own family and loved ones, he hopes his record will spark similar responses in listeners. 'My dream would be if two people could actually become closer together and have these kinds of conversations by listening to, and talking about, the ideas on this record. I’d love that.'