From the poster child and early adopters of what has come to be known as hyperpop, comes the second EP in Kero Kero Bonito’s Civilisation series. For a few years now, following the cult sensation of albums like Bonito Generation and Time ‘n’ Place, there has been a very vocal effort from the band to grow the music in a novel direction. To say that this entails a maturing of the sound, would be discrediting the earlier discography – I see these EPs as the same band we’ve come to love, zooming in on a single concept and exploring it thoroughly without outstaying the welcome.
From the beginning of Civilisation II, you get an immediate sense of what this concept is: Isolation. It’s a concept we’ve come to know a bit too well, but the band don’t approach it in a straightforward fashion. For example, ‘The Princess and the Clock’, which features the classic, upbeat and chipper sound that is the band’s hallmark. The song is cohesive, well crafted and colourful, proving they haven’t lost the charm. The lyrics discuss isolation through a fairytale story of seclusion, escape and imagination, and I love the indirectness of it. The song isn’t trying to hamfistedly comment on loneliness through allegory, it’s just trying to tell an uplifting story with a catchy chorus; at a time where I think we need one.
Following on from this is a very real snapshot of life spent in lockdown. The image that ’21/04/20′ paints is one of private ambulances driving up empty streets flanked by closed shops. The sound is more akin to the bedroom pop, with floaty chords and a very low beat, peaceful delivery on the vocals. Having spent two birthdays in lockdown, I found this song to really capture the aimlessness of that time, and the strangely heightened joy you get from simple things like seeing a friend in a park. It wouldn’t be KKB if it wasn’t finding the best in a bad situation, and I did find this to be one of the better songs about living through lockdown.
From here there is a submersion into the newer Bonito, with the beginnings of an esoteric jam made of various synth demo sounds. The murmuring and jingling cycles of electronica is reminiscent of their previous Civilisation EP, with a vocal refrain to “keep on living” echoing in the background. This track,’Well Rested’ is a wandering experience, layering textures and vocals without ever overloading the listener. The lyrics bring a natural antithesis to the EP’s concept, stating that isolation, negativity, and hopelessness are all temporary. The final lines make sense of the EP’s title:
“We have survived a hundred apocalypses, doomsday hasn’t come yet; you cannot stop civilisation.”
In a tradition that is newer to their discography, there’s a slight coldness to this very hopeful message. With the mix giving the effect that Sarah Bonito’s words are being beamed down to Earth by some higher power or even a cult: thunderous and echoing, but in a strangely unthreatening manner.
I got a lot of joy from the messages and story that Civilisation II had to offer, and though I could bemoan the brevity of the experience, I’d rather celebrate the very well developed vision that the project had for its concept. It’s some of the best musical responses to quarantine and isolation I’ve heard, and is available to stream right now.