Brooklyn artist Gabriel Levine is set to release his debut, Kiss Full Of Teeth under the moniker, Gabriel and the Hounds, and he’s called upon some of his friends and allies to assist. A variety of performers working directly in or with the likes of The National, Beirut, St Vincent, Sufjan Stevens, tUnE-yArDs, Bjork, and Jonsi all feature throughout the record.
In the midst of a feverish writing cycle, Gabe realized the new songs were different beasts than those he pens for his day-job as vocalist of Brooklyn band Takka Takka. He was creating something raw and personal, intimate sketches that wove together stories of disappointment, letting go and of the inevitability of endings, those of relationships, youth and innocence. Inspired by Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love he found a name for the project and was on his way.
He recorded the album around Brooklyn in living rooms, garages, and in proper studios including community stalwart Sea Side Lounge and The National’s garage studio in Ditmas Park. Kiss Full Of Teeth juxtaposes the quiet intimacy of its genesis, a lo-fi field recorder, with the nuanced sounds of expensive microphones capturing the warmth of the orchestral players who expand the palette of the album.
Organic sounds of trains, birds, breath, fingers moving urgently over strings are tethered seamlessly to intricate arrangements that include layered vocals, reverb, and drum parts that blend thoughtfully into the album’s narrative. The beauty of the spaces between the notes lets our synaesthesia kick in evoking cold stones, worn wood, and rusted steel.
On “The World Unfolds” Gabriel and the Hounds are buoyant and brash. They shake off the shackles of youth – drums and voice rushing forward, chasing each other away from the past, while barely looking back. On “Wire and Stone” ghostly vocals call out to droning woodwinds. And what begins as a small melody on guitar on “Talk of the Town” builds, to add voice, confident drums and sweeping orchestra. Aching psalms of being left give way to the rebellion of leaving. Kiss Full of Teeth arcs gracefully to its completion and closes with solo piano ringing out on “An Ending (Between Friends).”
Although the writing of these songs was a very solitary endeavour, the recording process became a communal affair, with Gabriel making the studio a welcoming drop-in for a broad range of talented folk, including Bryan Devendorf from The National, who plays drums throughout the album.