Release Date: Oct 20, 2017
Record label: Different
Backwater comes a few years after Kllo 's debut EP Cusp was released into the world, meaning the nascent duo suddenly found themselves playing live and touring the world with literally every single song they'd ever written. No time to experiment, no time to develop a sound by locking themselves in a studio away from prying eyes and ears. Yet the Australian duo's first full-length feels whole and complete, and with a distinctive sound.
For independent musicians, sometimes the music industry works in their favour, or against them, in mysterious ways. One day you're in, with all the benefits you can think of: a label, a manager, a booking agent and devoted fans that follow you around... and the next you're out. The problem with fast-paced fame is that sometimes you need time to mature, find yourself, find your sound and learn from experiences and mistakes.
On the artwork for Melbourne electropop act Kllo's debut album Backwater, it's not quite clear what the duo's two members--cousins Chloe Kaul and Simon Lam--are doing and how they're feeling. Are their eyes closed, or are they remorsefully staring at the ground? This picture of Kllo, though simple, is mysterious, intriguing and artful. It's an appropriate representation of Backwater: Kllo's songs, which build invigorating intimacy via Kaul's whispery, soulful vocals and the duo's solemn, haunting beats, are enveloping enigmas that lend themselves as equally to soft dances as to soul-searching.
Kllo's Simon Lam and Chloe Kaul are masters of juxtaposition, infusing their bubbling electro-pop beats with mellow R&B vocals and a churning, ever-present sense of yearning. Fittingly, they named their album after the bodies of water that "rest beyond a current's reach," those seen as "stagnant and turbid." Backwater, the duo's debut full length, is a collection of songs written while the cousins "waded in figurative backwater," experiencing the excitement of a world tour but also while homesick for their hometown of Melbourne. At their best, the songs on Backwater capture the mixed feelings Lam and Kaul experienced while writing them, artfully weaving heartache through intrepid pop hooks.
If you've heard either of the Australian duo's previous EPs, what awaits you on their full-length debut should come as no surprise. The pair have made a name for themselves in the last couple of years with their captivating blend of 2-step rhythms and tender R&B vocals, and this is on offer in abundance on 'Backwater'. Tracks like 'Last Yearn' and 'Too Fast' see them reach new levels of delicacy, with club influences more prominent elsewhere, but the pervasive dreaminess and charm ultimately results in an absorbing debut album.