Endless Autumn

Kilo
The Wildernis
EXPERIMENTAL STUDIO BRIGITTENAU EXB 002 CD + DVD (2012)

With exceptions, the few friends I have know me to have precious little time for ‘happy’ music, and – as is my wont – to disparage it with canyon-sized generalisations, finding it too distracted by its own joie de vivre to deliver substance. Indie pop? With a vocal spectrum that stretches from post-Beach Boy falsetto to wimpy whine? It animates me with an aggressive lust for hateful black metal.

Thus, to my great surprise, I find my apprehension melt away in earshot of the latest work of the laptop pop duo, Kilo (comprising Kompakt alumni Florian Bogner and Markus Urban), with the startling serendipity of an unpretentiously simple set of songs. It may just be that this crisp, sunny autumn day has engendered in me a feeling of false optimism, but this is exactly what I want to hear right now. Though lacking the sheen and budget that sold the summer to Daft Punk, Kilo’s songs smoulder with inner warmth, which is revealed by the layer to careful listeners. And the nondescript, monotone (even banal) vocals are my new fair-weather friend.

‘The Wildernis’ is a hazy hybrid of mildly glitch-gilded, GASeous pop sensibilities shot through with an array of distilled musical gestures from synthetic chamber to shoegaze, though the press release boasts of a more distinct and eclectic set of styles (including ‘rock, jazz, contemporary music and free improvisation’) than I am equipped to identify. In any event, such influences are atomised and wormholed into a dazed and distorted dimension of muted exuberance, casting the record in the same neverwhere light as that which illuminates Fennesz’ Endless Summer. Think of a brighter Tujiko Noriko, a less complex Cornelius or one of Kompakt’s ‘Pop Ambient’ stable and you’re in the ballpark.

Opener ‘For Those Who Go Away’ bounces along at a pace: cheery phrases ping from rubberised guitar strings while phantom syllables sweep the horizon. Maintaining a mightier clip, ‘Masken’ is all handclaps, kick drums and synth swells, marching like animated animals into an endless foreground (though its triumphant tone better befits an album closer). Another highlight in the haze, ‘Melody’ collects chromatic climbing and dispassionate harmonies, rubbery bass and tight (if swerving) kick-drum whooshed by red-arrow layers of neon synth; it is (im)pared-down electro-pop that stands firm, halfway in, undone by a lysergic, lilting flute and rebuilt from scratch amidst perpetual collapse. The harmonious blend of elements synthesized and acoustic, beneath a fuzzy blanket – if clumsy at times – renders the hapless song writing all the more endearing.

A ghostly sense of summer days and nights, idealised and invented, veins every track, including more downbeat numbers such as ‘Shivering’, with its world-weary entreaty to ‘feel my body shivering’ over a slurred, string-weltered backdrop. Its transition into a more crepuscular climate marks an emotional sea change for the album, while eroding the first few tracks’ sense of purpose, to no overall detriment albeit. Woozy instrumental interludes such as ‘Integrals’, ‘Wildernis’ and ‘Langdeep’ perpetuate the directional indifference – possibly to the loss of more impatient listeners – though enhancing the sense of scrapbook scrawl, captured well by the near-ubiquitous, sudden stop/start structure, as one halcyon moment after another gets hastily Prit-stuck for posterity. This approach is expounded upon in the nine-minute ‘Dickicht’ which descends like a cryogenic coma, haunted by the ghost of 1970s Miles Davis: a ponderous Fender Rhodes heaves over 4/4 drum machine and low, melodic mumbles – all elements exercising their right to capricious entrances and exits.

Often ambiguous and ambivalent, over time these deceptively simple songs reveal moods and textures that capture the emotional complexity of autumn mornings and other transitional times. ‘The Wildernis’ is a refreshing and disarming collection of songs, worth the time it takes to befriend.

In addition, the CD is complimented by a DVD, which contains visual analogues of all of the songs, in case the images in your head prove to be insufficient; special mention going to Adnan Popovic’s psychedelic Sesame Street visualisation of ‘Melody’. The films – many topographical in content – are well coordinated with the music, and would serve well as a backdrop to a live AV show, or to the home playback should a projector be available.

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