The first words heard on Kenseth Thibideau’s album Repetition, delivered over a restrained drumbeat as a plaintive bassline lopes along, are “Sun goes down.” It seems appropriate given the mood: while precise, Thibideau’s debut as a solo artist has a late-night feel to it, restrained and textured, precise with a vein of sentimentality allowed to trickle in. Its tone and points of reference are widespread, and some of the rewards of hearing this album stem from how Thibideau is able to unite seemingly disparate musical styles across these eight compelling songs.
Given that Thibideau’s resume includes stints in groups generally filed in the post-rock and experimental camps, including Howard Hello and Tarantel, Repetition is a surprisingly accessible album. Thibideau has also been a touring member of Three Mile Pilot and Pinback, and Repetition shares with both bands a tendency towards minimalist, slightly off-key pop songwriting. The poppier numbers here — essentially, the four songs that lack “Moon” in the title — feature subdued keyboards, steady basslines, and Thibideau’s hushed vocal delivery, surrounded by a gentle halo of reverb. The stately bassline of “Black Hole” recalls early Air, and it’s easy to imagine a lo-fi take on this song appealing to the bedroom-pop/summertime-song set.
Half of Repetition is entirely instrumental. Wisely, Thibideau intersperses the instrumentals throughout the album, avoiding expected patterns and preventing the album from feeling overly predictable. It’s no accident that much of the album borrows titles from astronomy: “Moon”s 2, 4, 5, and 8; “Eclipse,” and “Black Hole” all come to mind. On the instrumental songs, there’s a conjoining of atmospheric Tangerine Dream-style sprawl with Neu!-esque rhythmic workouts. This in and of itself isn’t necessarily unique — Black Mountain keyboardist Jeremy Schmidt has delved into similar territory with his Sinoa Caves solo project, for one — but the contrast and stylistic overlap between Repetition’s instrumental half and its more pop-oriented one is quite rewarding.
“Moon 8,” in particular, neatly bridges the gap between the krautrock-influenced sections and the poppier ones, and the glistening keyboards heard on “Moon 5” provide a rewarding and accessible hook. Through those connections, Thibideau reveals that two seemingly disparate styles are, ultimately, not so different.