Kites – You and I in the Kaleidoscope EP

Kites
You and I in the Kaleidoscope EP

The band Kites is, in actuality, one-man maestro Jean-Philip Grobler who, over a three year period, created this finely detailed, richly layered, but immediately catchy, four-song EP, writing the songs and recording vocals, synths, keys, bass, and more, with Jay Sikora on drums and some backing vocals by Patricia Beranek.

“Kaleidoscopic” is an apt description for this EP, from its sheer breadth of instrumentation to its lush, lattice-work musical and vocal composition to its dynamic tempo shifts that make it easy to get swept up by the songs and their rapidly evolving complexity. Subdued and melodic verses lead to a waxing intensity on the anthem-like chorus sections, where Jean-Philip takes flight vocally and emotionally amid saturated layers of sound, reaching dramatic, rousing heights.

The EP starts off with “Daylight” and its thumping beat, constant, but short strums of guitar, and plunked, heightened piano notes as Jean sings clearly on the verses, backed up by drawn out “Ahhh”ing male vocals. The escalating chorus brims over with flourishes of sinuous sitar notes that curve and ascend, drum beat, handclaps, attenuated synths, and tambourine jingle, as Jean sings “…and in the darkest of night / we can see the daylight.” The song is built on a conventional verse, chorus, verse structure, until an unexpected break of contemplative piano notes and cymbals that flows into a dreamy segment of liquid-smooth guitars, keyboard notes, and a breathy, wordless chorus from Patricia. The briefest of silences ensues, but it’s swiftly and exhilaratingly broken by a blast of whirling guitars, and then it’s all rock guitar frisson, bashed drums, and an emphatic chorus where all the previous sounds combine and Jean pushes his vocals into Matt Bellamy of Muse territory, all emotional and passionately exclamatory.

“Easy Now” opens with a ratcheting guitar sound and drum beat and then sails away on a darkly romantic and sleekly glam vibe of surging synths, rumbling bass undertone, and grinding guitar. On the verses, Jean sing-talks in a pristine, but melancholy tone against the drum beat and wiry, picked guitar, opining knowingly “Love is a drug / love is in love with itself.” Short, but bold and soaring chorus sections intersect the verses, filled with angular guitar runs, organ-type synth notes, and Jean’s yearning vocals. A completely unexpected, but interesting ska break occurs near the end of the song, with Jean talking in a muffled, manipulated voice against a shuffling drum beat, guitar and piano notes, and triangle tings. Then the closing chorus roars in at full force with added synth notes, rumbling guitars, and a climax of heart-on-sleeve, shouting vocal lines.

The ballad-like “Game of Love and War” slows the tempo down a bit at the outset, moving at a measured pace with low-key strummed acoustic guitar and a weaving pattern of synth notes backing Jean’s downbeat, but still light, vocals. A ponderous drum beat kicks in on the chorus, with piano notes following Jean’s doubled vocals, and each successive chorus builds up in sound, as Jean sings introspectively “Even today I long for more / deep in this game of love and war”.

What has started out as a hushed ballad eventually changes form, as a deep, drawn out guitar line lifts up from the calm, with a restless Jean sing-talking at a distance and backed up by fragments of his distressed vocals, bashed cymbals, triangle tings, and Patricia echoing his varied vocals lines in a higher register. The verse reappears at the end of the song, bringing back a tranquil tone of acoustic guitar strum and Jean sing-talking in a soft voice.

A fervently burning, but contained guitar line and low-register synth notes start off “Heroes and Villains” with Jean’s clear vocals coming in on the short verses, highlighted at times by Patricia’s higher range vocals, a buzzing guitar line, and fast-tapped cymbal that quickly leads to a thundering run of gritty guitar riffs, galloping drum beat, and Jean exclaiming on the chorus. The song morphs from the quieter verse passages to propulsive chorus parts with ease, shifting from high, bright synth notes and spiraling guitar to a storm of raging guitar and bashed cymbals that contrast against tinkling synth notes and choral backdrop. Jean pushes his vocals to the brink by the end chorus segments, with vivid, distorted, siren-wail vocals, rumbling bass, smashed cymbal, pressing drum beat, and a chorus of light vocals that, as the storm breaks, carry over into an aftermath of delicate, contemplative piano notes.