Kllo – ‘Maybe We Could’ review: subtle tweaks on a moody, alchemical formula

The electronic duo and Melbourne cousins play to their strengths on their anticipated sophomore album

Melbourne cousins Simon Lam and Chloe Kaul have an easy, rich musical chemistry. Each is an equally important half of Kllo: Lam with his knack for economic, emotive production borrowing from UK garage and two-step; Kaul with her smoky, fragile croon that lends depth and intrigue to otherwise facile lyrics.

The success of their 2017 debut LP, ‘Backwater’, seemed to have taken Kllo by surprise. By their interpretation it felt rushed and rough, qualities that translated to fans as charming. On their earlier EPs, Kaul’s vocals were a facsimile of Little Dragon vocalist Yukimi Nagano’s, and Lam’s soundscapes were playful and poppy in ways that were neither unappealing nor memorable. The more uniform palette of ‘Backwater’, written in fragments while on tour, instantly gave the duo a more distinctive sound, one built around woozy bedroom beats and the constant push-pull of desire and restraint.

Early, fraught attempts to record the follow-up were abandoned in late 2018, and the cousins parted ways with no concrete plans to regroup. But their respective solo and collaborative ventures cemented what their fans were thinking: that Lam and Kaul are most potent when working together.

Advertisement

On ‘Maybe We Could’, Kllo are still making moodily lit club music for shy people, but it feels like they have less to prove this time around. Gone is the fuller-bodied brightness of ‘Backwater’ tracks such as ‘Virtue’ and ‘Dissolve’, with their bold choruses and a palpable energy shift in the production. ‘Maybe We Could’ was finished pre-COVID but in many ways it’s a record well-suited to quarantine: a mellow mood-piece with fewer designs on the dancefloor than ‘Backwater’.

Opener ‘Cursed’ pairs Kaul’s voice, a wonder of effortless, velvety resonance, with Lam’s artfully spare beats and floaty pads. Snatches of quiet, garage-y vocals (a man exclaims “Hold up!” on repeat throughout) embody a recurring theme for Kllo: elements that make sense stylistically, if not contextually. On ballads such as ‘Insomnia’, the duo switch to quiet storm R&B, where narcotised beats anchor Kaul’s more purposeful singing amid swirls of lilting keys. ‘Ironhand’ likewise opens with piano, providing a fleeting but welcome break from the shuffled rhythms that dominate the record.

The title track, a luxurious study in space and simplicity, is the album’s finest moment. Kaul sighs like an angel over a haze of ambling drum claps and analogue strums, and as with the rest of the album and ‘Backwater’ before it, the visuals conjured are in soft focus, creating a dreamy, slightly surreal oasis.

The lyrics are similarly impressionistic: snippets of feelings abstractly termed and loosely articulated, lent emotional clout by Kaul’s yearning delivery. “In the night, feel it go, catch a ride, take it slow, we arrive, wanna know, I couldn’t hide, my Gemini,” she sings on the shadowy ‘My Gemini’, which comes over far more profoundly than that reads.

The gauzy ‘A Mirror’ is the record’s longest track, clocking in at just over five minutes and built around the repeated three-word phrase “when you’re near”. It gets more mileage than it should thanks to the trance-like effect of Kaul’s nuanced tremolo and Lam’s shimmering synths. The rest hover around the three-minute mark, a judicious move for tracks that are more concerned with mood than meaning, as expressed through basic, repeated motifs and a voice that transcends words.

Advertisement

With renewed appreciation for their musical partnership, Kllo have also embraced the core sound they accidentally established on ‘Backwater’. Fans of their debut won’t be surprised by anything on here, but Kllo’s dexterous variations on a theme should win them over regardless.

Details

Kllo new album Maybe We Could

  • Release Date: July 17
  • Record Label: Good Manners Records
Advertisement
Advertisement