Taken from the album Thylacine, “Lost at Sea” is a collaboration between guitarist Gareth Koch and vocalist Steve Kilbey. “Lost At Sea” is a meditative, reflective song. Koch’s classically influenced acoustic guitar style is a nice match for Kilbey’s wispy singing.
This single begins with what sounds like wind sound effects. Koch’s acoustic playing is soon joined by sparse percussion and subtle organ. Kilbey’s sings this song with a sad, searching voice. The track’s bass line is a simple, but effective anchor for the track’s melancholy melody. The song includes wordless backing vocals toward track’s end. This recording is similar in a few ways to Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.” That song also prominently features acoustic guitar. Its lyric also speaks to the feeling of being lost – the inability to find one’s path back home.
Of the two partners in this project, Kilbey is the best-known member. He’s the English-Australian front man and bassist for The Church. The Church is a beloved rock band that mixes power-pop, psychedelia and jangle-pop into an irresistible musical mix. Although the group has never quite reached stadium level popularity in the U.S., the act attained its highest commercial viability in the late 80s with the album Starfish, which contained the memorable single “Under the Milky Way.”
Koch is the lesser known partner. A trained classical guitarist, Koch studied music in Madrid and Vienna, where he earned a PHD in music. In addition to playing live and recording his music, Koch also lectures at various Australian and European universities and academies. He’s also a member of Saffire, which is an Australian guitar quartet. While his love of medieval music differs from many of Kilbey’s inspirations, both share a love of psychedelia.
Thylacine is a curious name for an album. It refers to a large, carnivorous marsupial, which is now thought to be extinct. Scientists tell us the thylacine is the only family member of the Thylacinidae to survive into our contemporary era. It’s also known as a Tasmanian Tiger or Tasmanian wolf.
The song’s lyric finds its protagonist expressing regrets. “I’m just the guy holding the pen/But this fair city brings down the song that I’m singing to you.” It’s as though he’s a vehicle for a vision. He’s seeking after someone/something. He sings of being “lost at sea” and “all alone.” It could be biographical for Kilby, as he’s no longer the young rock & roller he once was. It’s the sort of song that can only be sung with age and experience under one’s belt.
Although sad, “Lost at Sea” is nevertheless a lovely piece of music. Kilbey’s soft singing style is suited for this hushed sonic and literate writing. Koch’s playing is precise and empathetic. Kilbey has created an extensive catalogue with The Church, but that hasn’t stopped him from engaging in multiple diverse collaborations over the years. If this single is any indicator, Kilbey’s collaboration with Koch gives every evidence of being a fruitful partnership. Koch’s un-rock & roll playing style brings out a different side of Kilbey’s writing and singing. He matches Koch’s quieter tone with a quiet approach of his own. He may be singing about being lost out in the ocean, but Steve Kilbey and Gareth Koch have certainly happened upon a truly creative home together with this new work.