You and I in the Kaleidoscope
An EP of four songs shouldn’t take three years to make. Then again, it took Brian Wilson 38 years to finally Smile and My Bloody Valentine took two years to reveal how Loveless they really were. Phil Spector spent considerable time and dough — $22,000 — to produce the song “River Deep-Mountain High.”
Each of these struggles at least lightly bruises Kites’ You and I in the Kaleidoscope. Dude is in the tradition of fussy studio rats who grow ulcers searching for the perfect hi-hat sound. But where audio masochism had Kites mastermind Jean-Philip Grobler stressed over 80 layers of guitar, the resulting EP is surprisingly immediate. You and I in the Kaleidoscope is an avalanche of swirling guitars, synth, and sonic nibbles compressed into a pop nugget, then steamrolled over four tracks. Its overstuffed sound peels back layers of ’90s alternative so Grobler’s voice can slink through — a crystalline shot of adrenaline that soothes the raging drums and distorted six-stringed beasts.
Kaleidoscope‘s precise production is a far cry from current trends toward primitivism, and its big, shiny edges share DNA with the chameleon-like Grand National and the dramatic Muse. “Daylight” starts things off with what could be an alternate universe version of Smashing Pumpkins’ “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” but Grobler’s vocals are less affected and more pop than Corgan’s shrill whine. By the time we swell into the chorus, the guitars are lathered up, underscoring a slinky bouzouki and rubbing against Grobler’s Middle Eastern vocal melody.
Kites is a band out of time that rips through anthemic arena rock with more backbone than Coldplay and less tchotchkes than Radiohead. It’s just heart-felt alternative rock. Where contemporaries clamor to be cryptic, Kites’ songs are clearly telegraphed, even when they are wrapped in dichotomies — the titles alone give you a sense of the contradictions: “Game of Love and War” and “Heroes and Villains.” The chorus to “Daylight” begins, “And in the darkest of nights, we will see the daylight.” Confidently contradictory.
Nothing else really matches the hooks on “Daylight,” though “Easy Now” comes close with surging guitars and a symphonic feel. “Game of Love and War” brings a lattice work of piano, guitars, glockenspiel, and vocal harmonies — perhaps a nod to that Beach Boy we talked about earlier. As a matter of fact, Grobler studied under Brian Wison’s nemesis, Sir Paul McCartney, at his Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. Let’s hope Grobler sticks closer to Paul McCartney’s recording pace than Brian Wilson’s. You and I in the Kaleidoscope is intriguing, but what is to follow is the real mystery.