'The Absence of Presence': Kansas blends their iconic sound with stellar vocals and impeccable instrumentation
The group are at their best on their sixteenth studio album, delivering that classic Kansas sound while keeping things fresh and exciting
Kansas is all set to release their sixteenth studio album, 'The Absence of Presence', a release that sees the band bringing their signature sound back to the forefront. With a legendary career spanning nearly five decades, Kansas has firmly established itself as one of America’s iconic classic rock bands. This 'garage band' from Topeka released their debut album in 1974 after being discovered by Wally Gold (who worked for Don Kirshner) and have gone on to sell more than 30 million albums worldwide.
With a catalog that includes eight gold albums, three sextuple-Platinum albums (Leftoverture, Point of Know Return, Best of KANSAS), one platinum live album (Two for the Show), one quadruple-platinum single ‘Carry On Wayward Son' (which was prominently featured on the show 'Supernatural'), and another triple-platinum single ‘Dust in the Wind' (which has been played on the radio more than three million times). Kansas appeared on the Billboard charts for over 200 weeks throughout the '70s and '80s and played to sold-out arenas and stadiums throughout North America, Europe, and Japan.
The summer of 2020 marks the release of 'The Absence of Presence', a wide-ranging progressive rock album follows 2016’s 'The Prelude Implicit', which debuted at #14 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart, as well as the celebration of the band's breakout album 'Leftoverture' with the highly successful KANSAS: Leftoverture 40th Anniversary Tour.
Currently comprised of original drummer Phil Ehart, bassist/vocalist Billy Greer, vocalist/keyboardist Ronnie Platt, violinist/guitarist David Ragsdale, keyboardist/vocalist Tom Brislin, guitarist Zak Rizvi, and original guitarist Richard Williams, Kansas is a band that is showing no signs of slowing down, continuing to perform in front of large and enthusiastic audiences around the world and releasing records that are both true to their roots and progressive in that they push the boundaries of the band's own sound.
'The Absence of Presence' is, at its core, a classic rock album with classic Kansas sounds and themes. But it also lends itself to a sense of wisdom that only a band with as much history behind it as Kansas has can bring to the table.
'Throwing Mountains', described by Rizvi as a "mini-epic" as well as "one of the heaviest songs Kansas has ever recorded," is an uplifting song that aims to have you battle-ready: it tells you that you can conquer anything, and backdropped by dynamic riffs and a highly evocative violin melody, you can't help but feel like you're ready to climb all the way to the top.
'Memories Down the Line' is one of the more mellow, somber tracks of the album. Starting out as a piano-based rock ballad, the song is a beautiful look back on life, one that acknowledges both the "trials and tribulations" of life as well as the blessings that go along with these experiences. If wistful longing was a song, this would be it. Speaking about the track, Brislin shares, "Lyrically, I was intrigued by the concept of not only passing down one's physical traits from generation to generation but also the experiences that shape us. As with a number of coincidences occurring with this album, I had no idea we would be living through unforgettable times when the song would be released." Platt adds, "We are living during a time when people are doing a lot of reflecting - reflecting on past memories, or the memories they are making right now. 'Memories Down the Line' really makes one consider the importance of sharing our experiences with those who come after us. I love the sincerity of the song."
'Jets Overhead', the third single off the album, sees Rizvi and Ragsdale deliver one of their best guitar and violin-heavy tracks and is easily one of the musical standouts of the record. It's not surprising Rizvi lists the track as one of his favorites. Ehart's drumming gets several chances to shine throughout the album, but 'Circus of Illusion' really sees him at the top of his game. 'Animals on the Roof' sees Kansas dabble in a bit of electronica, yet they do not lose even the slightest bit of their core sound, thereby demonstrating their ability to experiment with contemporary instrumental sounds in a way that is authentic.
Despite every song on the album giving listeners something to marvel at, though, it's the title track 'The Absence of Presence' that reigns supreme. The opener blends the band's stunning musicality and ability to craft honest lyrics with the vocalists' remarkable ability to convey emotion through every word. Layer in the band's harmonies and you've got something truly gorgeous in this track. Much like 'Memories Down the Line' there is a sense of longing with this song as the band explores the feeling of having someone be 'here but not really here'. It's a painful thing to go through, and Kansas manages to channel those emotions perfectly in this song.
This is a stellar record from Kansas and it's evident they're quite proud of what they've created this time around. "We are really excited for our fans to be able to get a taste of what is to come from 'The Absence of Presence'," says Platt. "I think people will really be surprised by the album. ‘The Absence of Presence’ shows the band firing on all cylinders." The record features nine all-new tracks written by the band, produced by Rizvi, and co-produced by Ehart and Williams. Back in March, the band gave fans a sneak preview of what they can expect to hear on the album with a sampler video, and fans were already excited with what they heard, particularly the return to the band's earlier sound. These fans can certainly rejoice because the band has delivered on that unspoken promise with 'The Absence of Presence'.
'The Absence of Presence' will be released June 26 on Inside Out Music, distributed by The Orchard. The album will be available on CD, Double LP 180 Gram Vinyl, Limited Edition Deluxe CD + 5.1 Blu-Ray Artbook, and digitally on all streaming services. Pre-order ‘The Absence of Presence’ HERE.