'Maybe We Could' Review: Kllo's silky soft electronic dance-pop showcases the duo's strength and vulnerability
After feeling overworked and out of sync, the cousins traveled the world and pursued other creative pursuits before regrouping for a fresh start on their second full-length album
The Australian electronic pop duo Kllo (rhymes with "flow"), consisting of the cousins — Chloe Kaul and Simon Lam — will be releasing their second studio album, 'Maybe We Could', on Friday, July 17, via Ghostly International. Following the success of the Melbourne-based act's well-received debut offering, 'Backwater' in 2017, the pair toured the world twice over and started gaining a fan following. But they soon hit a creative roadblock in 2018 and abandoned their recording sessions after they felt that nothing was clicking for them.
After feeling overworked and out of sync, the Melbourne-based cousins decided to travel the world and pursued other creative pursuits before regrouping once again for their second full-length offering. These experiences served as a much-needed recharge and perspective reset for Kllo with both Kaul and Lam now more appreciative of the creative spark and the close bond they shared with each other. The silky soft and haunting dance-pop melodies of 'Maybe We Could' are reflective of the time they spent maturing as artistes while also signaling a fresh start for Kllo.
"Kllo was kind of our whole lives, all consumingly. Now we can see it from the outside, as a project that is part of our lives,” says Lam. “We needed that break, it was a healthy detachment," adds Kaul. "Writing with others has helped me realize that we figured out our sound straight away, from the first EP, naturally. I didn’t know how hard it was to get that with just anyone."
While the new songs dwell on familiar introspective themes of unrequited love, desire, uncertainties and making hard choices, the music is now more chill and downtempo, focusing on groovy textures and tasteful nuances with class and aplomb. The album opener, 'Cursed', is a haunting and melancholic what-might-have-been reverie set to skittering beats with Kaul crooning "Takes a lot of love to lose the person you do / Hope there’s still a place for me like I have for you." After confessing that she is simultaneously burning and fading, Kaul admits "I'm better in reverse / I know you've got it too / I'm falling like a landslide / I'm falling in two."
The next track and lead single, 'Still Here', is a piano ballad with old-school rave beats, blending resolute calm with euphoric grooves. "'Still Here' is us trying to take that combination as far as we can, fusing two styles of music that we love," says Lam. Kaul is a picture of sweet serenity on the vocals, pledging unwavering dedication in the midst of uncertainty. “Let’s keep on learning,” she offers, before adding "I am still here / Do you notice / I’m not going anywhere" on the bright and hopeful chorus.
'Insomnia' carries on in the same melancholic yet hopeful vein, starting off with some tender and dissonant piano chords, before the chill-step beats come in and light up the song. Kaul's heartfelt lyrics tackle detachment and romantic yearning, as she sings "Got a bullet rushing through my chest / Hit me deeper with the words unsaid." Lines like "High highs, low lows / Extreme, but it goes" dwell on the issues that come with every relationship, but she later affirms "Would you wanna fly up / Be the pilot / Yeah we could glide on through / Would you wanna fly up / And surrender / Yeah we could land it too." It’s also notable that this song was written as a remote collaboration when both artists were in North America independently, which further adds to the sense of displacement in the song.
'Gemini' is a lilting synth number with classic chilled out summer house vibes, as Kaul talks about unexplored desire and longing. "I fantasize / How you and I / Could leave behind / My Gemini" she sings as ghostly vocal layers add to the ethereal effect in the background. The swirling 'Somehow' is one of the stand-out tracks on the album with its gorgeous synth textures and nuanced build-up to the percussive chorus. Kaul expresses her frustration at the current state of affairs in her spiraling relationship, as she observes, "These conversations / Weighed on top of me It’s got me on my knees / Cause you left it up to me somehow / How? How?" It's a lesson in production finesse and unloading emotion in a controlled and polished manner.
On the title track, 'Maybe We Could', Kaul continues to explore the threads and fragments of what used to be a perfect pairing, as she sings "Push on / Maybe We / Where we off to now? / Wearing all the doubt / I am here to listen / But I can’t point it out." The music conveys a dreamy and chilled out vibe, incorporating delicious dub and fuzzy bass elements along with some minimal synth licks and subtle pitch-shifted notes.
Coming to another album standout, the bittersweet 'Ironhand' is a woozy James Blake-esque reflection on loss and change, as Kaul confronts her faded and jaded feelings for her partner. "Feel like a diamond in the rough / Not in our prime / It’s not surprising / When we put on a pantomime / Give me another sign." As Kaul admitted, “This song was written at a point in my life when I began to be more discerning of the costs vs. gains in certain relationships in my life,” and her maturing view of love and life can be seen on the falsetto-drenched lyrics "We could make it stronger / Forget about the past / We could make it longer / Yeah we could make it last."
The shimmering clockwork twinkle of 'Up' is another gorgeous and hazy fever dream with tasteful minimalistic backbeats, as Kaul admits, "Sometimes I don’t know what to want / You swore it only takes a moment / Translucent in the limelight / It’s bright, Oh / I don’t care if it takes too long / Shaking the truth, til it’s too far gone / Behind the smokescreen all along."
As the title suggests, 'Mirror' is stark and reflective and also the longest track on this album. Kaul repeatedly intones "When you're near" with some additional imploring background vocal snippets provided by Lam. We're also treated to some heady bass-heavy grooves that deserve special mention for the skillful production on display. The heartbreaking nature of Kaul's vocals is perfectly complemented by some gorgeous keyboard flourishes towards the end of this mesmerizing song.
The ethereal and moody album closer, 'Just Checking In', is a poignant message to Kaul's love, as she finds herself at a crossroads and begs him to make a decision that she can finally take solace in. "Will I see you at the party, or are you staying in? / Well we could be making plans, feel in love again / Or are you gonna make me wait another week? / Are you gonna leave red roses at my feet? / You choose." 'Maybe We Could' is certainly a strong effort by Kllo and deserves to be listened to on headphones to fully absorb all its lovely textures and haunting themes.
It contains some sublime and hypnotic moments with both euphoric highs and despairing lows explored in an effortlessly candid manner, coupled with some outstanding production craft. All said and done, it ultimately reveals two talented artistes at their strongest yet most vulnerable, content with being open about their feelings and their ever-improving creative dynamic.