Kero Kero Bonito Has Ascended After Releasing the ‘TOTEP’ EP
(This piece was originally written by Alex Mitro on March 15th, 2018 on our old host website, Medium)
UK-based electronic band and real life anime Kero Kero Bonito has made their official return with TOTEP. The EP, released late last February, consists of four new bangers for us to enjoy.
THE ONE TRUE PATH
Already, your average KKB listener will notice how different the tone of this track is to their usual fun, poppy affair. This song curve-balls the fans with a minor key, cold synths, and a bass line straight out of a cave level from Pokémon.
It’s a slow burner definitely, and takes its time reaching a real payoff. Overall, a favourable experience.
Aside from the echo-y effect on Sarah’s voice this song starts out just like any normal Kero Kero Bonito song. Then WHAM! Gotcha! You’re listening to indie rock.
The fuzzy guitars brought in on the chorus usher in a new flavour to KKB’s sound, and it sounds fantastic. On top of that, we get noisy hellish screams of the damned that bring a weird sense of narrative to the song. It almost feels like a musical re-telling of Doki Doki Literature Club, and I hate that I can say that and still love it.
YOU KNOW HOW IT IS
The guitars are back again on this track. Any elements of indie rock from ‘Only Acting’ are amped up to 11 for this song. You Know How It Is seems to be the trio’s tribute to 2000’s pop punk and indie music, complete with fuzzy guitars and a remarkably lax vocal performance from Sarah.
If KKB guest starred in an early 2000’s cartoon show, this is the song they’d play at the end of the episode, and quite frankly I want to see what wacky adventures the band gets our protagonists into. I feel maybe they’d be fighting off an army of robots that want to stop us from dancing, so they have to find some huge speakers for them to play this song and pierce their cold metal hearts. Then when they finally hit the first verse the robots start tapping their feet and the funny cartoon villain screams out “No! This can’t be happening! They’re having fun!” Then Sarah, Gus, and Jamie get carried away by an army of happy jammin’ robots.
Friendship always wins guys, remember that.
In the lectures for my Television Studies course there’s a girl who sits two rows in front of me and spends the whole class playing visual novels on her laptop. They mostly feature low-quality photos of real life actors with text scrolling across the bottom of the screen. It’s entirely in Korean so I have very little idea what the characters are talking about, but judging from the pictures it appears to be some type of romance story.
My point is, I’m like 90% sure that this song is what’s playing in the background of all of that.
This track can probably be considered the most “KKB” of the four as it’s easily the cutest on the album. It presents an undeniably warm nostalgic feeling. Sarah’s fuzzy vocals being paired to the spacey synth keys are definitely a winning combo. This feels like KKB trying to give their music more of a traditional ‘dim the lights’ type of atmosphere. It reminds me a lot of the softer side of 80’s new wave, calling back to the days of Tears for Fears and The Pet Shop Boys.
The cover for TOTEP EP. She filling up that water.
This is a step in a different direction for KKB and I hope these ideas are not just left at this one EP. Standing just at 11 minutes this is just too short to really get into a groove with this album.
While I can confidently say I love each song presented to me, it doesn’t add up to that much. I feel there is potential for a lot of growth here, not only with the sonic style they wear on this EP overall, but the specific songs on here aren’t explored to their fullest potential. Cinema, possibly my favourite of the tracks, stands at a puny 2:06 run-time with just 1 verse from Sarah. This EP touts being an idea(hopefully) of what’s next for the group rather than a fully fleshed work of art.
So that leaves us with the question, what’s to come? Well it seems KKB are working to shed their skin from their K-Pop inspired origins to something less cute, more minimalist, and more punk.
A similar change in sound was made last year by Arizona hip-hop trio (and past live show partners with KKB) Injury Reserve, who altered their more commercial 2000’s krunk sound for the dark, rough, and moody ‘Drive it Like it’s Stolen.’ Both EPs are noticeably less warm and inviting than either band’s previous efforts. It seems the circles that these artists run in are craving something new, something more atmospheric.
Ultimately, what we got was a sign that Kero Kero Bonito is maturing. 2016’s Bonito Generation showcased the band’s ‘graduation’, placing front-woman Sarah Perry in a cap & gown. Similarly on TOTEP we have her, as many millennials are today, hunched over a kitchen sink in complete darkness holding a kettle and looking confused.
The group is shedding their skin from strictly bouncy pop to something more grown up. We can’t always be dancing young, wild and free, and KKB asks their audience to sit down with them, have a chat, and listen to some really cool tunes. We’re adults now, and our K-Pop inspired UK garage acts have come to accept that.