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Written by: Dustin Lennin Choto

Departing from their established dancehall electro-pop sound, Kero Kero Bonito returns with TOTEP: a noise pop-rock EP on February 20, 2018.

Whereas 2016’s Bonito Generation aimed to promote positivity through its slick production, infectiously peppy hooks and emphasis on wholesomeness, TOTEP instead indulges in introspection and self-realization through a low fidelity backdrop.

“The One True Path”—the EP’s opener—features a prominent dirty bass synthline accompanied by occasional high-pitched string samples and synth clings. “Path” establishes various recurring elements present in this brief 4-track set, from a concentration on noise and feedback to aggressive instrumental breakdowns.

Despite this, vocalist’s Sarah Midori Perry still manages to convey KKB’s known sense of hopefulness, albeit in a more low-energy, somewhat depressed fashion. The album’s promotional single, “Only Acting,” perfectly captures this pessimistic optimism through lyrics about trying hard in an effort to fulfill a desire to put on an extraordinary performance for an awestruck audience.

Producers Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled supplement this wanting for belonging through adolescent sound effects (strongly reminiscent of Generation) and the horrifically glitched breakdown near the end of the track, embodying the EP’s themes of underlying melancholy hidden within its neurotypical lyricism.

Similar motifs appear on the garage rock, twee pop-inspired “You Know How it Is,” although to lesser success. The lyrics on attempting to find happiness in another works well with the ultra lo-fi sound—its washed-out abrasiveness clouding the melody’s positivity—though it does comes off a bit half-hearted. KKB’s intent may have been to call back and subvert expectations on the all-girl power-pop sound of the 60s and 70s, but its realization is akin to more of a cheap Peach Kelli Pop imitation.

That said, its place in the tracklist flows well into the EP’s closer. Differing from the rest of the songs, “Cinema” combines elements of contemporary shoegaze and Japanese city-pop mixed with slick production. Sarah also provides her most inspired vocal performance yet, singing about the mundanity of everyday life in a stream-of-consciousness-like fashion. The sweet melodies accompany the chill drum beat soothingly as strategically placed vocal samples add additional flair to the track’s nonchalant coolness.

Although nowhere near as hype as Generation, TOTEP presents an alternate side to KKB’s image. Sarah and co. strives to establish that they want to explore various genres while still providing melody-driven bops. It’s not as developed as it can be—and that’s okay; KKB is still finding their voice and are using this EP as a trial run to see what works and resonates with an audience. At a breezy 11 minutes, it’s definitely worth a mindful listen.