Listening to "Sentimentality Fails," an ecstatic slice of fine-grade electropop from Providence’s Kolour Kult, it’s easy to imagine its technicolor barrage of bubbling bass and pure ‘80s synth-stabs blasting from every cool shop, car window and tiny dancefloor in the city. It is music made for sweaty summers. The duo, Martin van Etten and Jack Prime, formed at a backyard barbeque of Brendan Britton, ringleader of Triangle Forest, the other Providence dance-electro band that – like Kolour Kult – is doing it the right way.
Martin and Jack decided to create what they call “electrocroon” over a mutual love of classic pop like Pet Shop Boys, A-Ha and Depeche Mode. Those influences shine through brightly, and the band isn’t shy about flaunting them. On “Lose Control,” the soft synth opening is reminiscent of vintage New Order with its made-for-the-dancefloor boombox beat and gnarly bassline. Indeed, most of the tracks balance nicely the dark underbelly of ‘80s electronic music while also unabashedly retaining the pure flamboyant pop of Duran Duran and Prince. The squiggly keyboards and funk bass of “Window”, for example, actually sounds like Simon Le Bon fronting a Prince track. But that’s not to say Kolour Kult is merely aping the tried and true sound of ‘80s dance pop; dark musical textures and evocative lyrics are a highlight of their songs.
“The songs that I am happiest with are the ones that tell true stories,” Jack explains. “Stories that still have a lot of emotional potency for me. ‘Soft Goodbye’ and ‘Sentimentality Fails’ both document relationship woes I’ve suffered, while ‘Hearts Like Ours’ is a tribute to the DIY art and music culture I grew up in here in Providence in the early 2000s, one that while continually assailed, debased and evicted, refuses to disappear.”
Martin describes his role in the group as such: “We have a conceptual direction for each project we undertake, be it an EP or full-length concept album, but Jack basically writes the scripts while I simply build the sets and do the makeup and costumes, if you will.”
“Soft Goodbye” is the standout track of the collection. Slower and moodier, it’s built around a simple bass/drum signature and ghostly synth echoes whose structure is sparse enough to let the superb vocals do the important work. Easily as brilliant as some of the classics of the original synthpop era, the song is made for a late night drive through the city, the lyrics weaving a compelling tale of heartbreak and loss.
Their slick-sounding EP was recorded in Martin’s sweltering bedroom last summer, necessitating the stoppage of fans and air conditioners so the mics wouldn’t pick up the sound. “We were quite literally sweating for the art,” he says. “The microphone we used was very sensitive. I even had to remove some honking streetcars.” Though recorded as a duo, the band has had Chase Leonard on drums and Rory Calhoun on guitar for some of their live shows, and they plan on incorporating both drums and guitar while recording their full-length album in the near future.
Oh and that record? It’s just going to be an ultradark concept album that takes place in a gritty, dystopian cyberpunk world – no big deal for a great band with lofty ambitions to match some serious high-tech dazzle.