A lot has been made about this tapedeck generation of ’80s-lovingchillwavers and their apparent sonic and aesthetic devotion to lo-fipop mastermind Ariel Pink and his now-famous string of recordingsaround the turn of the century. They’re rightfully comparable; both take direct influence from the extraneous, throwaway poplandscape that was never considered notable enough to be written downor reissued. Instead of looking at Kate Bush, they turned topeople like Taylor Dane and found the well-hidden warmth inthe cheesy melodies and midi-flecked music that so defined theplaylists of formerly hip parents and the radio stations they kepttheir SUVs tuned to.
But nobody really deserves that tag more than Kisses, anothermember of the now-adolescent chillwave scene, who sparks an image ofAriel Pink more lucidly (and more plagiaristically) than the rest ofthe crop. Coloured with computer-programmed textures, and pulsed byancient drum machines, Kisses’ The Heart Of The Nightlife presents analternative, weird, and slightly perturbing history of white collardisco and dance-pop from the American archives.
They’re one of themore pop-identifiable acts when compared to the misshapen melodies andwarped reverb of fellow nostalgists Washed Out and NeonIndian. The duo finds a surprisingly comforting foundation inJesse Kivel’s hovering, smarm-coated voice as he leads the band througha number of bygone eras; shaker-heavy tropicalismo (Woman Of The Club)icy, illuminated-dancefloor Eurodance (Lovers) and sweaty Bolton-esqueballads (On The Move.)
These aren’t your traditional touchstones fora blog-buzzed DIY crew, but like Ariel Pink, Kisses take thesequestionable sources and reinvent them into something happily sappy, alittle wistful, and twisted enough to stay interesting. The highlightends up being The Heart Of The Nightlife, which earnestly sounds like aHomework-era Daft Punk banger played on a secondhand Casio andits built-in percussion sampler. They’re able to take the ordinary forgetability of left-for-dead pop and restore it with theall-powerful and all-effective power of weirdness.
Does it all transfer over into a parameter-bending album? Well, no;despite putting all the right feet forward, The Heart Of The Nightlifeis eventually weighed down by the simple fact that it’s just a littleboring after a while. Almost every track is a refrigerated slow jam ofone kind of another, and in the end there’s just not that much todance or sing along to. Ariel Pink is able to implant some engagingand truly memorable hooks to his otherworldly beats; in comparison, Kisses just sound like they’re sleepwalking.
It’s still a veryenjoyable record, but it can almost sound unambitious. They’ve foundtheir niche in the inclusive realm of chillwave and, while that’sinventive, they stick to it throughout. After a while thosesyrupy, slow-burning songs just aren’t that memorable, and the music is plagued with the same qualms of that which they’relovingly satirizing. However, if they ever figure out a solution tothat fairly unique problem, expect to hear a lot more about Kisses inthe future.