To a vast number of people, the phrase “instrumental group” evokes unpleasant recollections of schmaltzy elevator muzak and exasperating jam bands. While these associations are often deserved, they must be fully disregarded when discussing North London’s Fighting Kites. The four-piece, who previously put out an addictive split with guitarist Neil Debnam’s solo project Broken Shoulder (Audio Antihero), now release their self-titled debut LP (Variant Records) as a gratifying successor.

Fighting Kites are one of the few bands that are just as captivating in recordings as they are live. Their continual time signature changes and recurring stop-starts are more enticing than vexing, effortless idiosyncrasies as opposed to stale superfluities that drag down other bands. 'Apartment Hotel', for example, incorporates increasingly intricate guitar lines, jarring stops, and free-form sax underlined by electronic noise. None of these components is especially alluring on its own, but the band create a charmingly cohesive arrangement and perform it seamlessly. Much of the album is graced by such consolidations that are made even more impressive by their expert executions.

The effortlessness of Fighting Kites deserves reiteration. The foursome are highbrow without being pretentious, creating instrumentation that is just as entertaining for a fellow musician as for the untrained ear. Each man is a master of his own instrument, and in many cases, of several others as well. Irrepressible drummer Dan Fordham skillfully navigates the saxophone in 'Butterbean' while Debnam takes over on drums; second guitarist Luke Johnson has his foot tapping on a keyboard throughout multiple tracks like 'Grey Starling'; Dave Stewart's bass lines marry innovation and subtlety; and on the whole of Fighting Kites, the band are in such tight synchronization with one another that it becomes nearly impossible to stop being astounded long enough to just sit back and enjoy.

Fighting Kites progressives solidly over the course of its 10 tracks. 'Chuck Close' is a sumptuous start to the record. With its lightheartedness and archetypal harmonies, the song achieves an introduction illustrative of what is to follow. Bouncier tunes give way to more pensive moods in songs like 'Bowling Alone' and 'Health & Efficiency'. For all its complex musicality, though, Fighting Kites manage not to take themselves too seriously. Even during largely standard breakdowns like those in 'Roast', there is never the sense that this is a typical band striving for a typical sound. Instead, they sound like a group of men from London with enough instrumental prowess and creativity to make a vocalist an unnecessary afterthought.