I first heard Kllo at a backyard party in Bed-Stuy.
“Candid” oozed the warmth of a late summer evening, where each moment – as is customary in the sauna of a New York City August – seemed to move in slow motion. I was unprecedentedly present, uncaring of what the night ahead had in store.
“Don’t wanna think twice / On the contact”
Drenched in sun and sweat, I remember leaning back, looking up. This particular scene was primed for a Kllo track; a tide of tanned and eager faces glowed against a receding orange light. The duo’s second single of 2018, “Candid” features vocals that soothe and satiate, possessing a sort of hypnotic quality. If not for the song’s pulsing undercurrents – a stammering two-step beat – I’d be closing my eyes, bending back effortlessly to meet the grass.
A collaboration between Australian cousins Chloe Kaul and Simon Lam, Kllo’s sound has organically evolved over the duo’s five year come up, culminating in a rich synergy between Kaul’s gathering vocals and Lam’s atmospheric production. To genre classify Kllo’s music as electropop would be to minimize the diverse mixes that layer in style, ranging from R&B to garage house – a milky sound reminiscent of the musician James Blake, or the electronic producer XXYYXX. Kllo’s lyrics have always felt intimate and intuitive, documenting relationship woes and the often counteractive forces that bind such experiences. “Moments I can feel you / Hold you in my arms / Feels as forgetting from” Kaul crescendos on “Virtue.” Communion ushering in a resounding withdrawal; a collage of submerged synth steadily gives way to the lush clarity of her voice.
The duo featured on the cover of their debut full length album “Backwater”
Now miles away from Brooklyn, and seemingly months out from any potential backyard parties, listening to Kllo is at once both relaxing and unsettling. Their music offers a backdrop on which listeners can ease and unwind – a necessity for all of us throughout this strange time. Yet what I love most about their songs is the purposeful meditation on what it means to wade into murky feelings, and accept an inevitable exposure to an unnerving unknown. I feel this is curiously reflective of the anxiety that has flooded our society’s collective consciousness in the time of quarantine. Kaul sings acutely about relationships – a love that hangs in the balance. While love is certainly not the central subject on everyone’s mind right now, our survival remains more contingent than ever on the fraught and fragile relationships that we maintain with each other, and with ourselves.
You have to respect artists who continually refuse to skim the surface and instead revel in the uncomfortable prodding of some foggy substance below. Kaul doesn’t shy away from feelings in flux: “Forward, it’s all here, forward / Reasons you don’t explain / And reasons I can’t explain,” she sings sheepishly on “Walls to Build.” What I find refreshing in this expression – a lyrical progression emulated in most of Kllo’s songs – is that as an audience we never get the full story. Verses are left disjointed like a relationship that is complex and unresolved in nature, full of nuance that more adequately reflects the numerous tectonic shifts that accompany a moving to – and away from – love. Between a comfortable state of autonomy and the wonder at allowing yourself to be completely at the mercy of another.
Each of Kllo’s tracks seem to adjust its focus on one acute, relational pain point, but often with a long tail perspective that could only benefit from bittersweet hindsight. On “Too Fast,” Kaul rewinds in the past tense and ends in the present: “Let’s go on, patch it all over.. / Beyond what we could offer.” Yet while this reading of narrative arc persists, so too does the prospect of Kllo’s lyrics existing as pure impulse. Kaul’s stream of imperative messages – an unburdening perhaps meant for close analysis – can feel just as ephemeral, notes-to-self that dissipate upon reconsideration. “Self control / Self control / Self composed” she’s heard whispering from a distance on “Nylon.”
Kllo’s music embodies the dual hopeful and hopeless state in which we currently reside, where questions around the future hang heavy. “Is it concerning / It’s all uncertain,” Kaul sings softly on “Still Here,” the lead single on the duo’s forthcoming album “Maybe We Could.” Set to release in July, the album’s ten new songs promise accessible, emotive material from a duo who, while continuing to experiment and refine their sound, appear to be at full strength. Regardless of critique, I think we can all appreciate a creative project built on confronting the residual effects of uncertain decisions, an experiment in self-discovery wherein the paradox of being urged to exercise at once both deep affection and isolating restrain becomes crucial to the future of our existence. “I’m not going anywhere..” Kaul declares on “Still Here” –