kintsugi photo 1

IMAGES: To download, click above. Photo credit to Stef Sandoval.


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kintsugi is the collaboration and recording project of Oakland-based siblings, Kessiah and Stephan Gordon. In the wake of their mother’s passing in 2019, the two invited one another in an emergent practice of familial healing through grief. What is possible when committed to active listening and sharing; with loved ones, ourselves, and the generations that bring us together.

Over the course of several months and seasonal shifts – against the alpine landscape of the North Cascades in Washington and snowy canyons of Utah – kintsugi produced a collection of eleven songs, eleven dialogues (serendipitously, the number of months which separate Kessiah and Stephan in age). This album, entitled life in death, is an instrumental expression of processing the physical loss of a mother and both grandmothers within a year, and the sudden call to learn how to communicate with these transitioned matriarchs. In the process of writing life in death, the two siblings deeply felt an opportunity to serve as a vessel for their memories, experiences, and lives; a truly intimate experience of generational conversation.

Each track integrates subtle influences from Kessiah and Stephan’s Japanese heritage, with sweeping textures of cinematic scales and movement. The siblings often converse with two guitars, melodic voices dancing around each other on tracks like “let me show you” and “good grief”. Other times, piano is used almost as one shared breath between them, taking turns performing a sunbathed morning salutation to the departed (“you can hear the flowers waking”), an apology embraced after conflict (“renjo la”), or saying hello in a goodbye (“saigo”). During its most climactic moments (title track “life in death”), the album reveals the story of their mother’s transition; from the moment of departure to the ecstatic realization that the one you love is no longer suffering, and can now dance as she so deeply loved to do.

At its core, kintsugi and life in death are an embodiment of intention; a commitment to love one another, to serve as a channel to ancestral voices that no longer have the physical means to speak, and to surrender to the wisdom of our past, one that offers gently, “let me show you”.