Chaos Theory

KaitO is the successor to musical noisemakers like Sonic Youth and Stereolab

Impatient fans of Sonic Youth or Stereolab who have long awaited successors to such indie experimentation can finally put their worries to rest. KaitO's music grafts itself onto such dissonant forebears while giving pop a futuristic makeover. In dense four-minute anthems, the British quartet crafts an abstract sound layered with sci-fi bleeps, washed-out lyrics, and other sonic variants.

Occasionally singer/guitarist Nikki Colk wrings a delicate sliver of tenderness from her voice; more frequently, she's mistress to disconcerting howls and violent lyrics obliterated by distortion. The band's recent album, You've Seen Us. You Must Have Seen Us., is a fine collection of rerecorded singles and original material. Colk's high-energy pitch cuts equal parts modern disaffection and performer's exhilaration on most tracks. But on "Catnap," three-chord fury and background shouts of "Whoo!" offset the singer's uncharacteristically low-key vocals. Bizarre guitar effects, high-pitched squeaks, monkish harmonies, and terminally distorted lyrics populate the pop revision "Rockstuff," while the album's obligatory "hidden track" closer splices tribal percussion with sound samples from the cutting room floor. It's clear these kids are enjoying themselves.

The kids of KaitO delight in sonic experimentation.
The kids of KaitO delight in sonic experimentation.

KaitO displays a distinct fondness for melding disparate elements. A toy ray gun rubbed against guitar strings, with childlike bursts amplified alongside finger chords, becomes a recurring theme. Drummer Dieta Quantrill sometimes abandons his kit for a stash of milk bottles, and feedback is nearly constant. Even so, this heady, chaotic mix is far from random. Despite the peculiar cast of musical characters here, You've Seen Us. is an amazingly well-orchestrated album. A point of pride for KaitO is "Shoot Shoot," a quirky, freewheeling song accompanied entirely by the sound of a saw cutting through a log of wood -- though you might not recognize it amidst the confusion. Perhaps live you can expect the real thing, sawdust and all.

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