Electropop duo Kaleida found small-time fame thanks to the film John Wick. Their track “Think”, features in the film and on the soundtrack itself. A lot of people (myself included) enjoyed the song and then followed the breadcrumb trail to Kaleida themselves.
If you’re not a fan of soundtracks and don’t really follow the rumblings of underground electropop, then you’re forgiven for not knowing of Kaleida or their debut, Tear The Roots.
After a year of slow-building, they’ve delivered an album that encompasses a moodier, mellow side of electropop. Tear The Roots is an example of pure, unadulterated mood music. Whether you’re driving in your car under city lights or dancing under deep blues and purples, Tear The Roots is a sombre experience. It’s perfect for when you want to tune in to your inner self.
A big part of why the album is so affective is due to its production. The production is dense and expansive albeit a little restrained. It’s a cohesive journey with a sound that is akin to all the shades of blue. It’s often pulsating yet serene, there are no real ‘bangers’ and the closest in nature is “Think”. Tear The Roots features undeniably catchy tunes but not in the Top 40 kind-of-way. Kaleida have produced a slow burning journey and what I’d call a ‘thinkers’ album. You press play and the sound swallows you whole.
As mentioned, the production stays within a space, never really crossing over the line. Sonically, you’ll hear faint drum patterns to ominous stuttering vocals amidst a sea of luscious synths, to list a few. “Think” speeds up the pace with a bouncy beat accompanied by a huge chorus. It’s a low-key club anthem or more aptly, a bedroom anthem.
With its teasing instrumental and seductive vocals, it features a chorus that echoes Portishead. You could envisage a sultry experience occurring beneath strobe lights or in the shadow of candle flames. You’ll want to move your body to this track and that’s why it has been such a deserved focal point for the duo. “Meter” offers a similar experience in terms of a danceable melody, although it’s far more low-key than the former.
Although there are danceable moments, Tear The Roots feels deliberately slow, as if its building to a climax. However, it’s hard to say if the climax ever truly comes, at least not in the traditional sense. There is no ‘bang’ but there are moments during the album that build to a crescendo and then fizzle out gently. Both the instrumentals and vocals are soft and heartfelt. There’s a punch behind the melodies and an emotional weight (somehow) behind the thuds and surging sounds.
The driving force of emotion is mainly found within the vocals. Kaleida possess some of the best vocals within modern day ‘pop’ music. The vocals never veer out of control and when the high-notes come, it’s with such finesse. Everything about the vocal performance is frankly, perfect. It also matches the albums sound, going toe to toe at every edge and corner.
“Division” features a wonderful vocal prowess with a beat akin to waves gently stroking the shore, gradually reaching further every time. Whilst “Free” puts the vocals at the forefront, atop a lingering, melancholy piano. During its chorus, it really strikes you how pure the vocals are.
Overall, their debut effort is a wonderfully constructed journey. It’s an enjoyable listen, from start to finish. However, there are two sticking points. Firstly, there isn’t much sonic experimentation. The problem is the album begins and ends within the same space, leading to a merging of sounds and songs, essentially blurring the lines.
On occasion you may have to double-check what song you’re listening to because they all share a similar song structure, combined with the underlying mellowness; you’re bound to end up lost at times. Perhaps it was a purposeful choice to stick an overarching sound-scape, encouraging the listener to get lost within the sound. Either way, I didn’t go into this album expecting sugary pop, quirky trip-hop or some aggressive house/trance inspired pop but I hoped for more diversity.
Secondly, I feel that “99 Luftballoons” completely disrupts the listening experience. Whilst this is minor (in the grand scheme of things), it’s bothersome enough to mention it. You can’t deny Kaleida have nailed the song and I admire the quality of it. Nonetheless, it’s unnecessary and doesn’t fit within the album. During my first play through, I found it to be completely jarring and with subsequent play throughs, I became a bit more used to it.
The sudden switch from “House of Pulp” (a far more busier track compared to “99 Luftballoons”) is where the problem lies; it’s like misstepping down a flight of stairs and your heart drops. It’s the lack of build up. There isn’t any indication that the album is going to go that way – it just hits and it’s disorientating. Once the track finishes, you’re thrown straight back down the rabbit hole from which you came. The album closes in a more melodramatic fashion, which is a complete contrast to the cover.
Despite the criticisms, (let’s be honest: they aren’t anything soul destroying) Tear The Roots is a resounding success. Kaleida have offered up one of the best debut albums I’ve heard. It’s apparent that it was created with such precision, love and perhaps a dash of pain too. The music oozes the heavier aspects of human emotion (not necessarily doom and gloom, though) upon a relaxed backdrop.
Tear The Roots is a magnificent, soul-burning experience. You can feel the depths of your heart and soul come alive within fluorescent flames. Kaleida are poised for success and you’ve gotta give Tear The Roots a spin. Get in your car, sit in front of the mirror or walk the streets at night and let them lay their seeds of beauty inside you. You won’t regret it.
Out now via Lex Records, purchase Kaleida’s Tear The Roots on iTunes here.
Words by Jake Gould