Album of the Month: Kairos's Self-Titled EP
Lena Simon layers lush dream pop sounds on her debut solo record.
Lena Simon might be the busiest musician in Seattle. She's worked with Mary Lambert and Katie Kate and her list of former band includes Tomten, Throw Me the Statue, and Pillar Point. Currently, she juggles her time co-fronting Pollens, playing bass for La Luz, and drumming for Thunderpussy. Oh, and there's her new solo project Kairos. After the May release of Kairos's self-titled debut EP—a stellar collection of wafting dream pop tunes—it's safe to wonder if Kairos might be the best of all her endeavors.
Simon's greatest strength is her aptitude for dynamic composition. She performs almost every part on the record: vocals, guitars, keys, bass, drums, and drum machine (producer Charlie Smith assists on a few spots on keys and bass). From this position of creative control, she provides ample space for each instrument to carve out its own distinct identity. Her melodic lead guitar work ranges from hip-swaying playfulness on "Sister" to the tumbling riffs on "November" to swirling distortion that ends "Dirt and Grit." Kairos's drumming is equally superb, exercising a complex minimalism that remains interesting while never feel like the beats are forcing the action forward. That's a key to the EP's success – nothing seems showy. The songs build naturally, as each part adds its own musical color that's then masterfully layered upon the previously existing audioscape without intruding on what was already in place. It feels more like a diverse group of players coming together and working harmoniously than a solo vision, which makes the results all the more impressive.
Kairos's vocal style is invitingly at ease. In comparison to the sometimes hectic sounds of Pollens, Simon sings with a soothing simplicity that feels like the audio equivalent of being wrapped up in a warm blanket fresh from the dryer. Tracks like "Cold Habits" exhibit her knack for providing her own backing vocals, whether just cooing along or having harmonizes bounce between stereo channels. The album-ending "Can/Cannot" finds Simon channeling her inner St. Vincent as she delivers intelligent lines of inner conflict like "You've been the crutch, the harming, helping crutch / that will hold me while it hurts me."
Simon seems in complete control at all times on Karios's EP as she crafts songs with a marble-esque polish that belies typical debuts. It's easy to get lost in the slow-drifting composure.