By Max Askari
Kero Kero Bonito's sophomore release, "Time 'n' Place," continues their streak of catchy indie pop releases. Hailing from London, Kero Kero Bonito's early releases were predominantly inspired by video game music and J-Pop. Frontwoman Sarah Midori Perry sings in both English and Japanese, creating lyrical content that distinguishes them from other acts in the Western indie scene.
"Time 'n' Place" is a departure from Kero Kero Bonito's traditional format. On this record, the band has shifted their sound toward the cutting edge of indie rock trends in 2018. While the catchy melodies and pop hooks are still present, elements of experimental and noise rock have been blended in. This change in style makes their new label, Polyvinyl Records, a perfect fit. Being on the same label as classic acts like American Football, Of Montreal and Pedro the Lion helps get Kero Kero Bonito the attention they deserve.
Like most CDs of the month, I feel like there's not a weak track on "Time 'n' Place," but some of my favorites are "Only Acting," "Dump" and "Sometimes."
"Only Acting" is the lead single from the record. Starting as a catchy indie pop song, Perry's vocals are accompanied by feel-good bassline. A catchy hook leads into an even catchier chorus. But from here, the distinct experimental sound of "Time 'n' Place" kicks in. A noisy synth line interjects with heavily edited vocals layered on top. This departure from the traditional sound of the band surprised me when I first heard it, but even this didn't prepare me for the chaos heard later in the song. After a return to normalcy in the second verse and chorus, the song devolves even further. You completely forget that you were listening to a pop/rock song just a minute earlier. The song completely changes into what sounds like a the soundtrack for a nightmare scene in an experimental film.
"Dump" is much more of a callback to the classic Kero Kero Bonito sound. Rhythmic sound effects and '80s video game-style synthesizers give the track a retro groove, but it keeps a new feel. The live drum kit and guitar lines keep the song consistent with the rest of the record, and it very much is a "Time 'n' Place" era song, but it's nice for longtime fans to hear the style they know and love.
"Sometimes" sits on a different end of Kero Kero Bonito's venture into rock. When listening to this song, I'm reminded of The Velvet Underground (particularly the track "After Hours"). The classic pairing of guitar and vocals doesn't come off as unoriginal though. Unison vocals throughout the song give a texture that sets the track apart from the rest of the record, and the light synth accompaniment keeps it in that distinct Kero Kero Bonito sound.
Kero Kero Bonito has been on everyone's mind for a while, and I was afraid they might become a relic of the mid-2010s, but "Time 'n' Place" has reassured me that they'll be making great music for a long time to come.