Kero Kero Bonito – ‘Civilisation II’ EP review: impending doom never sounded so appealing

The pop trio explore mythic past, isolated present and ambiguous future on this three-track release, which finds them as fun and thought-provoking as ever

Having broken through in 2013, when fellow pioneers PC Music and the late SOPHIE were emerging, Kero Kero Bonito made hyper-pop (albeit in their own mystical realm) before it became a thing. The London-based trio’s (Sarah Midori Perry, Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled) sweet yet unpredictable edge-of-mainstream J-pop, electro, bubblegum pop and shoegaze fusion earned them a huge cult fanbase worldwide – and their music remains just as futuristic as it was back then.

On their new EP, ‘Civilisation II’, however, they look to the past just as much as the future. A fitting follow-up to 2019’s similarly fantastical ‘Civilisation I’, it sees the independent band mix lively synth-pop with old-world mythology. Partly inspired by American trumpeter Jon Hassell’s concept of ‘fourth world’ music (which unified primitive and modern sounds), it was produced using only old hardware.

Each of the EP’s three tracks is set chronologically in a different tense: past, present and future. Opener ‘The Princess and the Clock’ is KKB at their storytelling best: Perry sings about a kidnapped protagonist being trapped in a chamber while Lobban and Bulled craft an 8-bit-referencing sonic landscape. It’s like blasting through a Mario Kart session on a Nintendo 64 that’s plugged into a cinema-size TV: full of eye-popping colours you’ll want to keep exploring.

The diaristic simplicity of ’21/04/2020′, inspired by cave drawings, is written about one specific day in lockdown. With contemplative synths and soft drumbeats beneath Perry’s meandering thoughts and observations (needing to go for a walk, seeing ambulances pass, noticing shuttered shops), it’s a sobering snapshot of what life was like exactly one year ago. “Right now, there’s not much I can do,” she realises… “’til we can meet again”, signing off optimistically with hope “for the new day”, dreaming – as we all were – of the return of some sense of normality.

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Comparatively more upbeat is the EP’s final track, ‘Well Rested’. A seven-minute existential sermon embedded into an acid-infused rave banger, it’s surely destined to be a fan favourite when live shows return. Although posing philosophical questions (alluding to the idea of resurrection and referencing the ambiguity of morality around the population explosion), it’s extremely danceable and harks back to Lobban’s quirky PC productions under his Kane West moniker). “False prophets proclaim that the end is nigh and that humanity is not worth existence,” Perry exclaims over kaleidoscope trippy beats. Impending doom has never sounded so appealing.

And that’s what’s at the heart of Kero Kero Bonito: they imbed stories (thought-provoking, moving or entirely made up) into future-pop bops that are bright and, most importantly, fun.

Details

Release date: April 21

Record label: Kero Kero Bonito Limited

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