Review: X-Communicate – Kristin Kontrol

Transformations are never really 180’s…or at least, the successful ones aren’t. Whenever an artist decides to drop their previous work and go in an entirely new direction, the best examples of these usually maintain some bits of their former self. For great examples of this, look at Bob Dylan going from folk to electric while his spirit and lyrics still kept their sharp sense of observation or Kanye West going from the auto-tuned 808’s and Heartbreaks to the more chaotic Yeezus without losing his signature/fatal mix of angst and bravado. The reason why these transformations felt authentic is because these artists didn’t completely change everything about themselves. When an artist does, like how Kings of Leon went from southern longhairs to arena faux-anthem-hocking dipshits in a matter of a year, it feels pasteurized to most, and particularly fucking gross to me.

With this in mind, I was a little scared to see how the new record from Dee Dee of Dum Dum Girls would turn out. I really liked her former band’s last album, Too True, and was hoping the band’s next release would be something along those lines. It’s not that change freaks me out, but that album, particularly the track “The Lost Boys and Girls Club,” is just so fucking good. I was convinced that it could have been their pinnacle and was more than okay for them to ride that wave for another 2-3 albums. Apparently Kristin Kontrol came to the same conclusion and wasn’t as content with that as I was. Instead, she ditched her old band and created an entirely new pop-based persona, Kristin Kontrol.

X-Communicate sees her shift her sound quite a bit. She’s swapped live drums for drum machines and guitar licks for synth-pop melodies that would make Depeche Mode or Tears for Fears proud. Yet, with all of this, her songwriting style hasn’t changed too drastically, which is by no means bad. In this case, it makes her new project feel more authentic. If I was to liken this transformation to any of my other favorite artists, I would say its similar to how Primal Scream changed their dynamics from 1997’s Vanishing Point to 2000’s Exterminator. Like Primal Scream, Kristin managed to change her sound, but keep her soul – a rare feature and one that certainly deserves praise.

Take “Skin Shed” for example, my favorite track on the album. It starts off with a synth line that pulsates like the lights of a big city, then proceeds to go through a number of shifts in tone throughout the song. While this could end up sloppy in the wrong hands, Kristin is able to take these tones, layer them, and then make them into a cohesive five minute track. The result is ambitious, wondrous, and plainly, fucking awesome: a dance track that’s introspective in lyrics AND sound.

Contrary to belief, I do like pop music. However, pop albums are hard for me to get through. Mainly because most of the ones done wrong – and there are many – are filled with 4 good songs and the rest are bullshit filler (ironically, Primal Scream’s latest follows this trend, but I’ll get to that later). However, Kristin manages to avoid this and crafts an album that is mesmerizing all the way through.

Her metamorphous is complete.

And fucking killer.

Skin Shed – Kristin Kontrol

Drive the Night – Kristin Kontrol

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