Blissed out, dreamy pop appears to be the order of the day in 2010. Firstly we had Beach House‘s masterful Teen Dream, and now along come Casey Dienel and Shawn Creeden with their second album under the White Hinterland moniker.
Kairos marks a bit of a departure for the duo though, with the quirky piano-led psych-pop of Phylactery Factory being replaced by a blissful, sometimes eerie electronica. This isn’t bland coffee table music by any means – there are sinister undertones bubbling under the smooth surface, helped by a nod or two to dubstep’s gloomy atmospherics on more than a few tracks.
Dienel’s voice is the focal point here. Bearing an uncanny resemblance to Bj�rk at times, and sounding like she’s auditioning for a role with Zero 7 at others, she manages to imbue every syllable with some emotion. Only the hardest of hearts could fail to be moved by Cataract’s chorus of “even though I may be out of the picture baby, you can still call on me from time to time”.
Creeden’s contribution should not be overlooked though, with each separate listen to Kairos unveiling a new element that you may not have discovered previously. It’s marvellously inventive stuff, sounding like a distant cousin of Merrill Garbus’ superb tUnE-YarDs on the fractured No Logic with its unexpected tempo changes and nagging guitar line.
Although each track sounds different, there’s an admirable flow across the whole album – the slowed down reggae skank of Begin Again sits comfortably next to the exhilarating tribal percussion of Bow & Arrow, while the fuzzy bass and multi-tracked vocals of Thunderbird merges perfectly into the sad balladry of Cataract. The latter could easily be White Hinterland’s breakthrough track, with Dienel sounding on particularly fine form.
There are moments that recall the Secret Machines spin-off School Of Seven Bells, but the most effective tracks are those that take dubstep as their inspiration. Huron has a dark, gloomy rumble punctuated only by clipped scattered beats while there’s a weirdly unsettling edge to closing track Magnolia, despite Dienel’s sweet as honey vocals.
The album’s title, Kairos, is a Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment. It’s an appropriate name for the album for, on this form, White Hinterland’s time is certainly now.