Being caught off guard has never felt so good. Curse Jar (Kinahora)’s debut album, Crescent Moons & Windows, is highlighted by a vocal delivery reminiscent of an extraterrestrial child and a lo-fi atmospheric soundscape. These two ear-catching elements coalesce into a record that’s every bit as sincere as it is original.
The experimental indie project is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Nolan Ritter. When asked how he developed such a unique singing style, Ritter explained,
“I’m always making fucked-up noises. I’ve been doing impressions of Salad Fingers forever and got into doing voiceovers around the time I started making my own music. It’s the only time I’ve ever actually liked how my singing voice sounded even though some people think it’s a bit.”
While his voice may be the most distinct aspect of Curse Jar (Kinahora)’s music, Ritter’s vocal personality has an uncanny knack for shape-shifting along with its musical accompaniment. Sludgy shoegaze headbangers like “Brand New Knife” and “Theseus” bring out a haunting quality in the vocal, while “Emperor” and “Another Travelin’ Song” showcase a sweetness as endearing as a pack of puppies in a mosh pit.
In a sense, the LP is defined by giant leaps in small spaces. “Wooden Teeth” takes us from a dream where the speaker thought he was Gucci Mane to a reality where he wishes he and his Dad would speak more often. We’re guided through these lyrical jumps by a nursery rhyme-like cadence that makes us trust whatever surprise comes next.
Ritter also earns this trust from the listener by trusting us with the vulnerability of his songs’ subject matter. “I had to dig into my life in ways I hadn’t really done before,” he admitted.
In “Edith’s Interlude”, Ritter takes on this task by sampling an intimate recording of his Grandmother describing personal tragedies throughout her life—uninterrupted and sparsely accompanied.
“It felt overwhelming to me that nobody would ever know the perspective of these crazy emotions she must’ve felt.” Not only does the song shine a beautiful spotlight on the experiences of a lost loved one—it deepens the personal connection to the music, grounding the mysterious nature of the project in the process.
The rest of the recording process mirrored this intimate approach. Ritter tracked and mixed the entire album from his Southern California home, except for drums, which were recorded in his native Cleveland, OH.
From mythic eccentricity to close-up vulnerability, Crescent Moons & Windows is a testament to how far an artist’s creativity can take us—startling, consoling, and entertaining in one fell spin. Anyone listening to Curse Jar (Kinahora) will be nudged beyond their comfort zone, into a strange place where a helium-high voice can plunge to the depths of the human condition and unearth a newfound appreciation for the people stuck in your head.