Kero Kero Bonito- “TOTEP”
Listen to the EP on your preferred streaming service here.
Kero Kero Bonito, often abbreviated to KBB, is a British electro-pop trio that combines the genre with some elements of j-pop and hip-hop. Formed in 2011 by Gus Lobban and James Bulled, the two went in search of someone that could speak Japanese. They came across Sarah Midori Perry and released their 2014 mixtape Intro Bonito. From the getgo, one of the most prominent features of this group is Perry’s smooth bilingualism. Sometimes she raps an entire verse in English before switching to Japanese, or change language in the verse, somehow managing to make the words rhyme with each other perfectly. The lyrics aren’t very deep, usually dealing with whatever the song is named for, but I think the fact that Perry’s talent is more than enough. She is backed by tasty, sugary pop electronics with some occasional experimentation. Their 2016 debut LP, Bonito Generation, expanded on Into Bonito with a much more focused sound. Now, out of the blue, the trio have dropped a brand new, 4-song EP entitled TOPTEP.
From the moment “The One True Path” starts, we notice that KKB is not quite the happy-go-lucky version of the band we have come to know. The production is nocturnal, lo-fi, even glitch-y. The lyrics are more existential, with a verse that actually goes “Well, I’m not the only person looking for a clue / I see by the footprints in the sand that you are too / So maybe together we can find a path that’s really true.” There is a hint of optimism, but these are quite the departure from previous lyrical themes such as jumping on a trampoline and visiting your parents. I am completely on board. As much as I enjoy their previous work, it’s nice to see the trio expand beyond that super-optimistic style to tackle darker subject matter. Next up comes “Only Acting,” which, at first, seems like a normal KKB song about acting in a play. The chorus takes a bit of a noise-rock approach, and then we get to the first bridge, when the song starts showing its true colors: Perry screams, and there’s a not-quite-breakdown from the instrumentals. This is quickly pushed aside and the song returns to normal,right up until the final chorus, which starts with Perry saying “exactly.” But there’s a continuous glitch on her voice, and the song soon collapses into a genuinely beautiful disaster, which transitions perfectly into the next track, “You Know How It Is.”
This track also reminds me of KKB’s earlier material, but updated with that noise-rock flavor. The lyrics also continue in a darker vein with lines like “Oh, you know how it is / When you try, but nothing’s going right.” Regardless, it manages to keep their cutesy, upbeat appeal. The EP concludes with “Cinema,” a somber, lonely place to finish. It reminds me of “Fly Me to the Moon,” the song that plays over the credits of every episode of Neon Genesis: Evangelion: calm, but sad. It seems the character Perry is portraying on this track is more reluctantly content with the fact that things just aren’t going to change, no matter what they do: “While the adverts might’ve changed / The popcorn tastes the same,” as she so beautifully sings. This is wonderful closure to the EP in how it answers the first track’s question of the “true path.” You have to keep moving in life.
The only thing I wanted out of this EP that it didn’t give me was more. I loved every track; I’m just upset that this thing only stands at 11 minutes, as it could’ve easily have benefited from an extra song or two. However, if this is what we should expect on whatever Kero Kero Bonito releases next, it’s safe to say we have an electropop masterpiece on the horizon.
VERDICT: Kero Kero Bonito put together an 11-minute EP that explores a broader range of topics than their contemporaries. I am absolutely excited to see where this group goes in the future.
- Alex Brown