Kye Kye – Fantasize [Advance Review]

In June, I received a kind thank-you e-mail from Kye Kye. What I didn’t expect was a link to the new album! All of a sudden, I was the elated recipient of a sneak preview of Kye Kye’s new LP Fantasize — months prior to the release. Because Kye Kye have recently been navigating some tough choices in how to release this album and whether to do it independently or on a certain label, the release date has been postponed to January.

For a music journalist and strong appreciator of Kye Kye’s work, it was a great birthday present (Okay, so their manager didn’t know it was the week of my birthday, but it sure seemed like he had done his research.)

If you don’t know Kye Kye, you might like to read my interview from early 2011. Originating from Eastern Europe, their family moved to Camas, WA, where the three siblings (Olga, Tim, and Alex) began producing music. Olga’s fiance Tommy (now her husband) joined the band to play drums. Kye Kye produce an interesting mix of electronica-infused pop, doing it with both live instruments and programming. They’ve has put out one album, Young Love, and the three siblings put one out prior to that, under the name Paper Rings.

photo by Vanessa Weber
photo by Vanessa Weber

I’ve given Fantasize multiple listens, and it’s clear Kye Kye have worked tirelessly on this new full-length. The band have been quoted calling it a “labour of love”; that’s more than clear – it’s meticulously produced.

I must give you one spoiler alert: it’s pretty different from Young Love. Don’t go into this album expecting more of the same.

The opening chord of Fantasize takes me back to the first time I saw Kye Kye live. These first notes had the same effect on me as in that concert. I stopped breathing. The timbres swirled around me for a moment and then everything became normal again. Pretty mystifying.

This new album Fantasize is something special. And it’s fun.

This album is not only an important step in the evolution of Kye Kye, but I believe it stands out in its genre. The original creativity in this album is astonishing, and I’m sure Kye Kye have drawn influences from atypical sources for the electro-pop genre.

Every instrument on this album has been treated. I noticed the drums first, washed in reverb, while not being at all overbearing or heavy-handed. Olga’s voice, too, has a very glossy, floating feel to it, while remaining front and centre in the mix. A prime example of this is in the middle of “Softly”.

photo from www.kyekyemusic.com
photo from http://www.kyekyemusic.com

What makes this album so different from Kye Kye’s previous work? There’s been an evolution in at least three regards: first, the drums are central to this record. Both real instruments and electronic drum kits have been used. Brilliant stick work and drum programming have created some very tight grooves that enhance the rest of the instrumentation. While Young Love had a great texture to it, Fantasize feels more solid – and that’s a good thing. Second, this album relies less on loops and is driven by bass and beats. It features more instruments in general: synths, horns, percussion, electric guitar, bass, and a multitude of virtual instruments and loops. The guitar, which does not feature strongly on previous album Young Love, are exceptional. Third, Olga’s melodies reveal an increased confidence in exploration. Throughout the album, especially on tracks like “Dreams (2am)” and “Fantasize”, her creative use of timing and intervals brings a freshness and melodic leadership to the music. “Seasons” — and its interlude afterwards — would have been entirely out of place on Young Love, but is a fitting inclusion on Fantasize, and transitions masterfully into “Softly”.

Kye Kye have picked from multiple decades in regards to their influences on this album. “People” and “Softly” throw back to the 80’s. I can’t help but imagine, half-jokingly, that Kye Kye took some production cues from bands like Toto. After all, “Africa” enjoyed a momentary resurgence of stardom last summer.

True to her form, Olga is not afraid to be soul-baringly reflective in her lyrics. “I never knew that I was so harsh with things I thought I wasn’t afraid of. I never knew that I was so scared to change because of honest affection”, she sings on “Honest Affection”. She possesses a real strength of narrating through lyrics, though her tendency to under-enunciate, combined with the effects of reverb, can make it a challenge to pick out exactly what she is saying at times. Nonetheless, the production on her voice is magnificent.

Meticulously produced, this is a very strong release from Kye Kye. It’s exceptionally powerful musically and sets the bar for original creativity very high.

Brocken Spectre – Grand Kids EP

http://brockenspectretunes.bandcamp.com/
http://brockenspectretunes.bandcamp.com/

Followers of the Vancouver music scene will need to give this album its due this summer, because Brocken Spectre just levelled up. The release of Grand Kids EP is exactly what fans would want: right-on-target studio takes of songs they’ve heard live. The band calls its own offerings avant-pop; It’s Neapolitan in flavour: hopefully it’s the sort of freshness that will save us from the deeply adulterated indie-as-a-genre phase. Stripped down, it’s drum kit, guitar and bass, occasional robotic synths, and a stirring voice.

Either they arranged with Mario and Luigi for a shipment of golden mushrooms this year, or it could have something to do with more live performance experience; gains in confidence for the band reveal themselves in brave explorations of their musical territory. Colin Ablitt traverses the upper and lower (rock bottom) limits of his range, while Colin Campbell (drummer) teaches floor toms the greatness they were destined for.

Exploration is a word that could describe this album. The second EP produced by the band, it is mostly the translation of live songs into studio ones, and that’s pretty satisfying. Sonically it contains strong pieces; some parts are catchy as a fishhook.

All parts played by this four-piece from Burnaby/Coquitlam fuse together to produce the slightly dark oft-performed “Marionette King”, with Ablitt’s strong melody lines and Nic Campbell’s crisp guitar work that make the song stand out.

Opening song “Frost”, a fan favourite at shows, translates nicely into studio with the sense of the drums not being lost, the harmonies of the song resolving as usual from minor-keyed trisyllabics into a full-hearted rouser. “Steam Hands” jungle-drum opening glides unexpectedly into blissful alternative rock a la The Decembrists and reveals some strengths of the band.

Repulsed by redundancy, it’s an album of surprises. Sometimes the vocals have a folksy colour to them and sometimes they’re alt-pop. Spectre is good at locking into a groove and equally skilled at recreating it. Andrew Cleasby’s bass keeps the tracks anchored while Colin Campbell drums interesting and cleverly-placed rhythms.

It’s this final, somewhat-Fleet-Foxes-inspired “Corlioghost” that is most striking. Opening with its three-part harmonies and plodding synths, the track develops awestruck lyrics like: “I’ve been fascinating on you for some time now…lion, come and catch me”. It packs a punch in its diversity, changing and fading only after a drum, bass and guitar interlude that is a concert staple for the band.

“Anteros & I” is unexpected. This grungy piece explores the gravel floor of Ablitt’s vocals and drags a little, but the song upshifts gears and becomes incredibly enjoyable after he takes a turn for his more familiar upper reaches. Tight stick work from Campbell drives it forward; indeed, it contains some of the most memorable harmonies and rhythms on the whole album.

With the release of this EP, new material is to be expected from the band, and as mentioned in my last interview with them, a possible entry into Vancouver’s prestigious Peak Performance Project. In the meantime, enjoy the places Brocken Spectre has explored on this EP.

DSC_1343

 

Holobody – Riverhood

Holobody - Riverhood - cover

 

If only I knew sooner that simply typing “Canada” into Bandcamp’s search bar would bring incredible music like this to my ears, I wouldn’t have waited so excruciatingly long.

Riverhood is one of the most creative albums I have ever heard, and I do not say this lightly. It’s the work of Montreal’s highly talented Luke Loseth (aka Felix Green), Charlotte Loseth (aka Sea Oleena) and others listed on their Bandcamp page.

The production is incredible. At any given moment, the sound is a flawlessly layered cake; an auditory delight: vocals reverberating, bass marching, synths spiralling up and down, and an incredible array of ambient sounds – claps, old European radio broadcasts, pianos, glass bottles, and the like.

Genre? “No” is the band’s apt reply. “Sonic exploration”.

Pick this album up. You’ll love what you discover.

Get Riverhood directly from the artist for $8 here: holobody.bandcamp.com

The Dare – Gina Williams

She’s a singer, a pianist, an actress, and an educator. After shelving her master’s degree in Piano performance for a decade, Gina Williams “dared” herself to perform again at the Bell Performing Arts Centre in Surrey, BC, Canada on October 20, 2012. The Dare is a 65-person multi-genre performance. Tickets are available at the door. For all other details, watch!

Gina Williams – The Dare October 20th from Craig Ketchum on Vimeo.

Love Is Patient – Brianna Gaither

2812489571-1Brianna Gaither is a singer-songwriter from Oklahoma City with a knack for creating music that’s more than pop, yet contains all the elements that make it so listenable.

Love Is Patient is her new release. Available on iTunes and noisetrade, I’d recommend this album for its masterful lyrics and exquisite music – the whole album is very rich in texture, depth, and style. Brianna and her band team capture the art of a song that’s listenable and innovative. They appear not to settle for the redundancies of mainstream pop, and yet learn from it, allowing it to inform the music. Tracks “Stepping Stones” and “Let It Go” are great examples here, as Brianna’s thoughtful lyrics reflect upon coming home or freeing oneself from anxieties or negativity, but are offered in a musical package that is highly accessible and even radio-friendly. She reminds me a little of Ingrid Michaelson and Maria Taylor (who are each impressive in their own right).

Other things an audiophile will enjoy on this album are the fantastic harmonies (for example, on “Let It Go”, “Harvest Moon”, and “Find You”), and the use of piano as well as orchestral tones to enrich the soundscape, as well as the the spotlight placed on the lyrics, purposefully elevated sonically above the music to really stand out.

Opening track “Find You” is a song about waiting for someone special – but it’s not one of “those” saccharine songs about the perfect person. She asks, “Will you be true when I find you? Will you still be you?” When we meet that person, they’re going to be real! Will we allow and encourage them to be themselves, or will we try to turn them into our own selves? Listen to this track at Spirit, Ocean, Dust, Life and enjoy its lush textures and its surprises; this song is incredibly catchy and yet so distinct from the typical indie-pop hook.

 Brianna’s impressive range shines on “Find You” as she follows chromatic scales up and down in the verses before hitting some notes at the top of her range in the choruses, doubled with some gorgeous harmonies. The track then segues into a pretty crazy stylistic adventure in what my drummer roommate and I are nicknaming “polka-dot-funk” (catch it at 3:44) and slips back into driving 4-beat rock paired with conviction by Brianna’s simple yet powerful, “I’ll…find…you…”.

That’s just one track. As the album opens up, Brianna shows us she’s not a one-style composer. “Harvest Moon” and “Home” are powerful ballads that can’t prevent me from thinking of Michael Buble or Josh Groban. And although I’ve personally not been a big fan of either of them, the fact that I hear them in those ballads is not a bad thing, because I’m making a connection to their talent and eminence in their genres, and the power that lies behind the contemporary ballad. “Home” could easily find itself on a wedding playlist.

The last two songs on the album also surprised me very pleasantly. Rich in metaphor and reflective upon the most important things in life, you’re really going to have to listen to tracks for yourself, because the message here is a tad ineffable.

A chat with Kye Kye

Having talked with Kye Kye in December 2010 while on their “Young Love” album release tour with Future of Forestry, we connected again to talk about their music, their faith, their future plans, and their really bizarre name…

A tailored version of this interview is published in the September 2011 issue of Vancouver-based Converge Magazine. Check it out!

CK: So, you’re Kye Kye now, but you haven’t always been! You used to be called “Paper Rings”, right, and you released an album under that name. Was that your first album as the group now known, mysteriously, as Kye Kye?

Olga: Yes, our former name was Paper Rings under which we released our first official record. we recorded it in our basement about 2 ½ years ago by ourselves and did it on a small budget. It was the first real thing that had come out of the band and surprisingly, most people around us locally still know us by that album!

What was the reason behind the band’s name change? Were there other changes that were happening at that time?

I think the name change was a culmination of the last 2 years. We all felt that since we had a new vision for our music and lives, a name change was appropriate. We had never really been sold on the Paper Rings name, and we eventually decided that if God put a new name on our hearts then we would go ahead and change it. The name Kye Kye came up during our time in the studio recording “Young Love”. It was really kind of unexpected, but once we heard the name we all just fell in love with it and knew that it was the banner we needed for our music.

Our thought process for the change was that it had to represent what was going on inside of us. It’s mostly strangers from around the world who get to peer into our lives, into who we are, what we think, and how we express that through the words that we write. We believe that Christ lives inside of us, so we want people to see and hear Christ through us; it is no longer we that live but Christ who lives in us (reference to Galatians 2).

With that in mind, “Kye” is our phonetic spelling of the word “Chi,” which is part of a Greek symbol the early church used that represented Christ. And we just say it twice for emphasis. Christ is who we want the world to see, whether we are on stage, on your radio, or in your iPod, or if we get to interact with you on a personal level.

My first encounter with you included that personal interaction – your music and your live shows carry real conviction. What is it that you want to convey to listeners?

More than anything, we want to convey the truth of who God is and who we are through Christ. We must shed light on wrong ideas that make it hard for us to love God. Sometimes the questions and answers are so messy that no one wants to talk about them or try to answer them, which isn’t a solution. We have to dig for the answers to questions like “if God is love, then why is there pain?”; “Does God allow this cancer?”; “Was this accident orchestrated by God to bring me closer to him ?”; or even, “What’s the difference between the old covenant and new?”.

These questions all touch on who God really is which is why its important that we find answers to them in the book that tells us all about him, not mans opinion about Him, not even a preacher’s opinion, but the Bible’s truth. If we don’t do this, they’ll end up being answered (poorly) by the world.

We believe all of this is extremely important because if our beliefs are incorrect it limits the intimacy that you could have with God, which is sad, considering the whole purpose of life is to know Him. This isn’t just relevant to people who call themselves Christians but I also think that there are many unbelievers who are kept in that state due to these same misrepresentations!

What ideas do you try to communicate in your music?

I think that one thing that we have realized in music and life for that matter is that you cannot give what you do not have. We are trying to communicate a real experience of God’s love that we have experienced, are experiencing, and will experience. Our music portrays God’s overwhelming love for us and how it has been affecting our lives. It has impacted us so much that we want to pass on this love to everyone who has ears to hear.

Our lyrics and words are tangible because they are something that we experience everyday and is more real to us than anything else on this earth. We want our musical sound to be something unique and refreshing to the music scene and something that takes our current musical culture and gives it something that listeners have been seeking out: music that melodic and listenable, yet contains depth and realness.

To be a little more specific, the main theme of the entire album “Young Love” is based on chapter 6 of Romans and Proverbs 23:7; the death of our old spirit, the birth our new spirit, and the renewal of our minds to who this new creation is.

Stylistically, Kye Kye plays a genre that’s definitely not a typical sound for the ‘Christian music industry’ Is it freeing to be out of the box?

Yes! We definitely want our music to apply to all people. While our words and lyrics are about God and our relationship with him, this does not limit who can listen or appreciate our music. We play to both the secular, mainstream crowd and secular venues and that is what we want. We are not about singling out certain groups of people, because that is not what our mission is. Our mission is give everyone what has been freely given to us from our Father. We have seen great reactions throughout the Christian industry as well as in the secular crowds and we love that all people find value and enjoyment in our music.

What kinds of venues do you find you have your best shows/memorable moments?

All kinds of venues that we go to are memorable. We really see the most memorable shows being with the people that we can really be down to earth with. We want our shows to be a personal experience, and when we can really connect with the crowds, talk to people individually, pray with people, and just be intimate; we find these shows affect the fans the most, and we ourselves take the most away from these types of shows. We really aspire to have personable and touching shows no matter the venue size.

What is your genre?

We definitely have that electronic feel to our music. It is apparent hearing all the synths, electronic drums mixed with real drums, spacey guitar, and soft melodic vocals that many people place us into electro category. We are not category-specific in that we do not want to limit where we place ourselves, but really want a listener to put us into his or her own category. We have really found that nearly all listeners can appreciate our music, from the hipsters down the street, to the grandparents at church. We love our sound and our feel to our music and really appreciate all the genres that we have been placed in by listeners.

Do you expect to continue experimenting with genres? What about instrumentation?

Our sound will always be growing. We love the sound that we have grasped with Young Love, however, we are already working with new sounds that we really want to explore on our next record.

You’re all family here, in one way or another! Let’s talk a bit about that. 

Tim is the old goose (laughs), Alex is youngest and I’m (Olga) third to last. Alex and I were closest in age so I have most of my childhood memories with him. Tim and I got a lot closer a little later in my late teen years.

I think our whole family is a bit musically/artistically inclined. our grandpa wrote poetry, my parents wrote songs for church and actually tracked a record in there native language. Tim played the violin since an early age but when he started writing music it was really intriguing to me . . . I was like, “Wow, my brother is cool!” (laughs) So I think a lot of the motivation behind my music writing was Tim and wanting to impress him! I basically started picking up the guitar without really telling him for a while. Then one day I built up the courage to show him a song I had written and he was quite impressed!

What brought you to perform together, and then how did you go about inviting others into the process?

It wasn’t until some time later that we started collaborating. Tim had gotten into programming with some new software and we started experimenting. it was just the two of us for some time. Then before we tracked our first album in ’08, Alex joined us on the keys . . . as for Tommy, my husband, he came in the picture a little later. actually whats funny is he was always kinda there. We even played a few shows together in opposite bands. Tommy eventually stopped performing with the other band and we had him audition for us and were all stoked on having him become part of the band. It was a big change for the group cause we were just so used to working together the way we did but the addition of Tommy added a great new fresh sound to the band so it was a smooth transition.
Most siblings remember a lot of excruciating roadtrips. You’ve been touring, and your interactions indicate that you have a lot of love and patience for each other . Do you care to elaborate?We try to be as encouraging as we can be and to focus on the positive in any situation, which is really easy with tommy around! Small things can become magnified very quickly. Knowing how the enemy tries to destroy us helps us understand what we have to do to resist him.
Have you toured much? Where are you ‘known’? 
Our biggest tour experience since the record came out was this last December when we went on tour with Future of Forestry. We toured to 10 different states and in 2 countries and had such an amazing experience getting to know the other band as well as the fans that showed up. We had some Kye Kye fans show up to many of the shows as well as some Future of Forestry Fans who started following our band!

On tour, what are your expectations of each other?
One of the biggest expectations of each other on tour is to speak life into each other. On tour we come across so many roadblocks, flat tires, little sleep, and all the other craziness that happens on tour and having positive attitude and not letting our emotions getting the best of us it crucial in keeping our mentality straight. We believe that our emotions and daily ups and downs do not convey who we truly are and what we truly think, so we know that if one of us is struggling, we just remind each other of who we truly are in the Spirit and just really build each other up.

What are some of the biggest life lessons and faith lessons you have learned? How have these impacted your songwriting and musicianship?

One of the biggest faith lessons that we have learned is who God has truly made us to be. By spending time with God through Jesus and getting to know him by finding who he is and what he’s done, he has truly revealed who we are in the Spirit and what our actual purpose here on earth is.

I think that we have a tendency to think our calling is our purpose. A person ca get the idea that their whole life’s purpose is to save people through preaching the gospel, but one of the greatest truths that God has revealed to us is that this is not our purpose. Jesus reconciled us to God so that it could be like it was in the beginning. When Adam and Eve were created their purpose their original purpose was to relate to God, to talk to him, to know him – to live with him. I believe that this is also our purpose today. The reason I exist is to know God through Jesus, and I think that when you realize this and walk in this truth then spreading the gospel becomes a natural overflow of everything you do, whether music, business, or otherwise. I think this is why the early church spread like wildfire. It’s not about finding meaning and purpose to life in our activities (even if the activity is to save people) It is really about finding meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in knowing God.

This truth has changed our lives, and, as a result, changed how we write. With “Young Love”, our approach to writing has really been more about listening, getting to know who God is and expressing what we personally experience along the way. We try to convey something that is real to us, something that is tangible. This impact has allowed us to have firm belief in what we write and sing about.

What does the term ‘worship’ mean to you, and how would you define it?

We believe it’s all about how you relate to God. Jesus said that true worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth. It is about approaching Him in the Spirit, which is where our new identity in Christ is. We seek to sing and write about our new spirit-man and who we are right now. When we open our mouth and sing these words we are approaching God with the truth about who we are and who he has made us. Worship is something that is not confined to a building, church, or cultural background; it is purely based on God’s spirit. And once we realize who our spirit is, we can then approach God and worship him in Spirit and in truth.

Let’s look ahead. What are the future aspirations for Kye Kye?

Our focus right now is on our live show, and how to best impact those who come, whether that be through the sound, lights, words, instruments, atmosphere, or whatever else. We want people to leave with a better understanding of who God is and why we all need him.

We are writing at every chance we get and we plan to release a few song remixes from “Young Love” at the beginning of next year. Our project in the works is a 6-song EP entitled “Body” which is going to be part of a 3-EP series in which the other two will be titled “Soul” and “Spirit” respectively.

Make sure you catch Kye Kye on tour if they’re anywhere near you.