London-based electro pop group Kero Kero Bonito, characterized by vocalist Sarah Midori Perry and backed by producers Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled, created a deviation from their previous material with the release of their EP, TOTEP, on February 20th.
KKB’s 2014 mixtape Intro Bonito and 2016 album Bonito Generation featured upbeat synths and many verses of Perry singing about nonsensical topics in Japanese; the group’s image was, up until now, one of bright, bubblegum bit pop that lacked much sincere meaning other than carelessness and fun music to dance to.
Taking a darker and completely separate direction, the new EP’s central track “Only Acting” begins with a predictable sound, yet shockingly degenerates into distorted noise rock during its final chorus and ends in complete static. “Only Acting”, which was released alongside an analog camcorder-inspired and similarly distorted music video, proves to be TOTEP’s most interesting track that abruptly displays KKB’s intent to explore a new image and sound, instigating a change in their signature discography.
The other three tracks each take on their own equally deviated personas; the opening track, “One True Path”, lays flat for its entirety and struggles to offer any climactic or ear-catching elements. “Cinema” exudes bedroom-poppy notes, a melancholy tale with more insignia of KKB’s sonic redesign, as Perry sings, “While the adverts might’ve changed / The popcorn tastes the same”. Finally, “You Know How It Is” is garage rock-esque, completely transitioning Kero Kero Bonito from a synth-pop group once only accompanied by turntables, to one that may now perform alongside a band.
Kero Kero Bonito’s loyal fanbase may have trouble adjusting to the group’s abandonment of its own signature elements that made it recognizable; not a single line from TOTEP, for example, is sung in Japanese. Yet the release proves KKB’s attempt to try their hand at not just one new sound but many. The group’s ability to rebrand itself yet maintain its core elements of creating music that lies out of the box, alongside its visually appealing image, seems intriguing, yet its full trajectory of success lies in the dark until a full album is released.