White Hinterland – Kairos
Dead Oceans 2010
[tags: again: nothing but beautiful dream pop, 2010]
Listen while reading:
It’s time to get to the last one of this year’s current Big 3 of dream pop albums. Beach House and jj are featured already, now it comes to White Hinterland’s newest output Kairos. Elsewhere I spoke of White Hinterland’s album as an experimental version of jj – and this seems to be quite correct, but I admit, I could have also called it an experimental version of Beach House. What’s important is the fact that it’s clearly more experimental, maybe sometimes even near to not being dream pop anymore (Bow & Arrow is such an example of a brilliant track with very much no dream pop elements excluded its conceptual embedment into the whole record).
To show some examples of this experimentation, you could listen to the beginning of Amsterdam with some light industrial percussions that create some sort of brazen sound; or to the broken beats in No Logic that give the track quite an own and interesting, hobbling rhythm. In combination with the weird synths and the noise factor, it makes a very remarkable tune, kind of hot, but also fresh and maybe a bit distant. Huron is another candidate that shows the many faces of Kairos, it’s smooth, sliding, with some depth coming from the background choir and very anxious intonated beats, not the stomping ones of tracks like Icarus that could be considered hard in comparison. One of the best, but also just very little pronounced, features are the didgeridoo like sounds in Bow & Arrow, they completely freak me out and they are fantastic! In the end the main elements of White Hinterland’s new sound are variations in the use of electronic beats and percussions. Every track got one specific rhythmic robe and every single robe got a very shining and unique coloring through the different synthesizer sounds. Some are clear, some are bright, others are dark, fuzzed out, even noisy sometimes with heavy distortion.
But I don’t have the feeling that Kairos really sounds like out of space or futuristic or such. The sound of the two Portlanders is kept together by the clear and shining female vocals and of course the mentionable amounts of reverb put on them. But this is nothing special in this genre and it is quite necessary, if you want to create colorful clouds of sounds and imaginations. The end of the second track, Moon Jam, can be seen as a point of culmination of the colored cloud metaphor, because it seems that every element that was used on the LP is mixed up there to a big sound conglomerate (sunlit). Quite hard to somehow express this in words, but it’s definitively one outstanding moment of the album. Besides the musical factors, Kairos also scores big with the cover artwork. Where jj’s cover artwork totally sucks and Beach House’s gets a neutral valuation from me (even though I read an interesting comparison on the cover artwork and the music, sadly I forgot where), White Hinterland captures everything of their sound in this wonderful light blue and toxic green colored picture with yellowish tint showing a diver(?) with an exploding, green water shattering water bomb in front of him. I don’t think there is much to add to describe the sound through a picture (the White Hinterland logo kind of disturbs the atmosphere a bit, but well).
What if you just had the money to buy either jj’s N° 3 or White Hinterland’s Kairos? Hm, you should pre-listen both of them and decide if you are in the mood for some experimental dream pop, with some lounge feeling to it (did I mention funkyness?), or the more traditional, maybe at some points too poppy and sugary cocktail dream pop of jj. I don’t want to judge what album is better, they are different, but I think both of them have more potential than Beach House’s Teen Dream (and everytime I say this, it brakes my heart a little more, because I love Beach House). To make sure, you get the right thing, listen to this record as well, it’s an essential listening in 2010. If you should decide on Kairos, you can order your physical copy here or your MP3s here. The band page can be found here, MySpace here. And now let’s see how Secret Cities‘ upcoming electronica/dream pop release kicks in.