We all suffer from demons of defilement at some point. I won’t pretend to totally understand the ins, outs, and what-have-yous of the Kilesa Mara mentioned in Buddhism, but they seem to represent the factors that delude us and cloud our minds, like greed and ignorance. Kylesa were named after some of these strong forces, but after listening to their newest album Ultraviolet I don’t think the music is suffering from any of these “mind poisons.” This is a daring, expansive album building from their psychedelic crunch and double-drummer pummel , full of large ideas and progressive melodies. Unfortunately, with great experimentation comes a varying degree of success. Still, you can’t make progress through the forest without stepping into a few ditches and bear traps along the way.
The familiar sludgy Savannah stomp roars from the opening seconds on “Exhale,” featuring the best tandem vocal work on the album as Laura Pleasants and Phillip Cope trade barbed lyrics with venom and conviction. The song feels like riding red waves on a splinter of driftwood, surrounded by sharks and figuring out how you’re going to kill all these finned bastards with the guitar on your back as your only weapon. Opening with the most vicious song on the album may make what follows slightly disarming for those seeking more of the same mud and blood. But clearly those listeners weren’t paying enough attention to the moments of light in Spiral Shadow, because those seeds of melody have blossomed here, an album later. Sure, there’s the massive stoner riffs of “Grounded” and the excellent bong-blitzed burner “Vulture’s Landing,” but most of the album is more pensive, brooding, and eases forward with entrancing rhythm and nearly oxymoronic bright melodies that paint the black’n’gray sky with strokes of turquoise and (ultra)violet.
Some of these songs work beautifully, like the Porno For Pyro smoking hesher hash vibe of “Quicksand,” and “Low Tide,” which captures spacey new wave pop that could get the goth kids at the nearest cellar night club two-stepping. Others struggle with delivering the melodic undercurrent without distracting from the main pull of the song, or worse yet, murder the momentum. “Steady Breakdowns” suffers from the latter, kicking off with witchy occult rock before vanishing into smoke and space dust as the song loses focus. “Drifting” is just a mess, unfortunately closing the album with a bombardment of disagreeing parts played with the enthusiasm of a guilty elegy. The overall results may be inconsistent, leading to frustrating so-god-damn-close moments where you understand that sometimes less is definitely more, but it’s also fascinating and inspiring. Beneath the proggy spazz-outs and the lightning strikes of pop melody this is still a loud rock album, just one that values patience and excitedly experiments with tone. In the middle of the record Pleasants sings that “You have lost your soul.” After listening to this record it’s clear she’s not singing to a mirror, because Kylesa is displaying more soul and courage than any previous recording, even if it doesn’t pound mountains to dust like Static Tensions.
Listen to Ultraviolet now on Spotify and check out Kylesa over at Season of Mist: http://www.season-of-mist.com/bands/kylesa
And check them out on Facebook. With over 47,000 likes it’s not like they need you, but I heard they think you’re cool and funny and stuff: https://www.facebook.com/KYLESAmusic