Kero Kero Bonito’s latest effort TOTEP, self-released this past Tuesday, introduces a fresh and unexpectedly dark new sound for the British electro-pop trio. The four-track EP is a decidedly stripped down follow-up to the band’s 2016 full-length LP Bonito Generation, which featured the knockout hits “Trampoline”, “Picture This,” and “Lipslap”. With TOTEP, KKB add punk-pop guitar riffs and frenzied drums to their band and abandon hyper-crisp production in favor of a warm, lo-fi tone. TOTEP is a mature release that doesn’t lose the sugary sense of fun that permeates the band’s existing discography. This especially shines through on single “Only Acting”, the most recognizably-KKB product of all four tracks which features some of the most triumphant moments on the EP.
On “Only Acting”, fuzzy guitars layer over the band’s familiar Casio SA-45 keyboard and bleed into chaotic blasts of pulsing noise. Vocalist Sarah Midori Perri is predictably sweet throughout the majority of the track, but turns heroically violent during its third act. It is also during this third act that the dissonant, crunchy audio glitching begins. Loud, frenetic, and unexpected, the glitching is equal parts playful and brutal – and will undoubtedly have you checking for damage to your device on first listen. KKB are champions of songs that make their listeners momentarily uncomfortable (unprepared listeners may find their music to be disagreeable, an auditory shock akin to hitting cold water), only to quickly and efficiently indoctrinate those listeners into the lush, exotic soundscapes they create. “Only Acting” is Kero Kero Bonito at their finest, flexing their complexity as songwriters and proving to listeners that they can create more than just PC Music-adjacent jingles.
On “Only Acting” and “You Know How It Is”, verses are anchored by the familiar, bubbly sound of classic KKB while palpable pop-punk undertones of Simple Plan and Good Charlotte pervade the choruses. The garage tracks beg to be danced to, beg to be moshed to in a grunge-y, hot room. “The One True Path” and “Cinema” are softer, each relying on a steady, innocuous drum beat to carry the song from start to finish. These two numbers are completely incongruous of the band’s existing hyper-pop, unrecognizably KKB if not for the comforting voice of Sarah Midori Perri. With “The One True Path” in particular, Kero Kero Bonito could very well be a blockbuster Brooklyn psych band. (To be fair, KKB are far better than any of the white, cis, all-male Brooklyn psych bands making waves right now.)
Lyrically, the EP is a jarring thematic departure from the silly and optimistic whimsy of previous Kero Kero releases. Final track “Cinema” is an ode to finding comfort in loneliness and peace in the mundane. On it, Sarah tells the story of a day at the movies with decided gentleness: “And in the end the day’s always saved / So once the picture stops / I let the hours pass, distracted in the dark.” “The One True Path” finds KKB considering fate through an allusion to the Christian parable of footprints in the sand. “Well, I’m not the only person looking for a clue,” muses Sarah. “I see by the footprints in the sand that you are too / So maybe together we can find a path that’s really true.”
With TOTEP, Kero Kero Bonito have diverged a savvy new path for their music that radiates with truth. The EP promises an exciting new future for the band filled with experimentation, surprise, and – at long last – guitar.
Check it out below:
The group will be debuting their live band show on April 13th at DIY Space in London.
Words by Megan Schaller