Kairos by White Hinterland

7th August 2010 – 3.37 pm

Or Music of 2010, part one (continued).

Casey Dienel's dreamy vocals open White Hinterland's second album Kairos. The soaring calls of Icarus echo before being repeated over a thumping drum and pulsing bass rhythm, creating a different dynamic to the piano-based folk music of previous works. The juxtaposition of soft, comforting vocals against more stripped-down and heavier music than normal works remarkably well for White Hinterland. And the changes continue in to second track Moon Jam.

Where Icarus introduces the new White Hinterland, with Moon Jam the drum track gets more mechanical and a synthesiser drones around a riff as Casey crafts amazing vocals above it all, pulling us deeper in to the glorious marriage of styles. There is a keen ear at work, not just understanding how best to combine the different sounds but also understanding how to use the dynamics. The full power of the song comes not when all the instruments are playing but when they are removed for the bridge. Hearing Casey sing 'life without a moon and stars/is no life at all' fully in the foreground and with her wonderful choice of pauses makes me tingle every time.

Icarus and Moon Jam are amazing songs by themselves, but they also peform a valuable service to the listener. By the time we come to third track No Logic the combination of a deep bass rhythm, odd percussive effects, and powerful yet soft vocals seems perfectly natural. Now we can sail through the fabulous Begin Again and Bow and Arrow fully immersed in White Hinterland's world, revelling in all the looped vocals and unusual background sounds.

Then the distinctive beat of Amsterdam kicks in, giving a couple of bars to prepare for Casey's vocals. It is such a simple song and fairly short, only two verses and a repeated chorus, but the real joy is how the song ends. The music is stripped down as far is it can go without disappearing, then whispered much more quietly than the rest of the song. The intimacy of the outro is made more poignant by the final lines of the chorus, 'what were you trying to tell me?/I could not make it out', almost begging us to listen more closely to hear the secret. And it's worth being somewhere quiet to hear Casey's beautiful refrain.

Kairos still has four tracks left and after the layers of looped vocals of Thunderbird the more traditional and soothing Cataract embraces us. The song is delightful enough to start with but at the turn we get another wonderful refrain. It is difficult to be repetitive without becoming boring but Casey manages it almost effortlessly here. The same lyric is sung with just enough changes to keep it interesting but few enough to make it emotionally charged, whilst expertly gauged pauses in the music punctuate the passage, gradually fading in to noise antithetically to the lyrics in a way that accentuates the message.

Huron keeps the music emotionally engaging, more layered vocals almost haunting the song by the end, before the album closes with Magnolias. I was looking forwards to Kairos when I heard that White Hinterland had a new album due, but I never quite expected it to be so different and with it so powerful. Even with a more minimal sound there is so much to listen to and be drawn in to, and Casey Dienel's vocal and musical talent remains extraordinary. I have been listening to the album regularly since its release a few months ago and I am still finding new depth to it. Kairos is a beautiful album.

  1. 5 Responses to “Kairos by White Hinterland”

  2. Bought it. Loved it.

    By BugBot on Aug 7, 2010

  3. Woo!

    By pjharvey on Aug 8, 2010

  4. You are my dreamy girl-pop pimp :-)

    By BugBot on Aug 10, 2010

  5. Aww, I haven't been called dreamy in ages.

    By pjharvey on Aug 11, 2010

  6. Kairos lyrics reproduced with permission


    Let the sun rain down on me
    'Til covered in dew
    All pink and new and newborn
    Cut past the grey and countless forms
    Condemned to kill or be conquered

    Slender as a carp you are
    Your skin defiantly silver and so sure
    As for me, I am not so sure
    I watch you skate like a knife
    Beneath the water

    Though I can see clearly what's ahead of me
    I cannot stop it once I'm set a-spinning
    What can it mean, why must I always see
    The ending at the beginning?

    Together going arm and arm
    To meet our solitude, to meet it head on
    I'll meet you where the water's warm
    To meet my solitude, to meet it head on

    Though I can see clearly ahead of me
    I cannot stop it once I'm set a-spinning
    What can it mean? Why must I always see
    The ending at the beginning?

    Moon Jam

    I went swimming in a black and silent sea
    While I was between
    Waking and dreaming
    In my mind a knot was gathering
    I am afraid of so many things

    & I cannot control myself

    The water moved around me
    Like a cloud of ink
    'Til I came upon a lake
    The sun has never seen

    & I cannot control myself

    The fish went wild
    Their eyes aglow and seeking heat
    Like shards of glass
    flitting on past me in the lake below
    Life without a moon and stars
    Is no life at all
    I am afraid of so many things

    I am afraid of many things
    But I do not fear the future
    What lies ahead is between
    me and the universe

    No Logic

    There is no logic
    No reason
    No logic at all
    To keep holding on
    To the hope
    You'll turn into
    The man I thought you were

    I can't sit still
    I can't stay in one place too long
    Are you comfortable? Are you comfortable?
    I'm moving along

    Your voice, though stentorian
    cannot hide the shadow of a doubt
    Your thoughts may seem golden now
    give them time, time to sort them out

    How do you know the name
    the name of the one you love?
    the name of the one you love?
    what does it feel like?
    can it make a sound?
    What does it sound like?

    Begin Again

    I have seen the sun at dawn
    Glisten like a marble
    I have seen the golden light
    That your love has to offer
    I can feel the strength of your power
    Through the prism of you laughter
    There is so much that I have to learn
    There is so much that I'm after

    Begin again
    the everyday and the ordinary
    Take the light out of the window
    Put it down on the page:
    Hardwood chair, foot of the bed
    Spliced in half, make them new again
    It was you who found the silver thread
    But it was me who did the mending

    Let it go, let it roll right off your shoulder
    Just like the rain
    Let it go, let it roll right off your shoulder
    Start again, begin again

    Bow + Arrow

    There are some things better kept to yourself
    Some people are better left to themselves
    You're one of those better left to themselves
    I never know what might set you off

    You want to kiss me, but you don't know how
    I want to hold you, but I can't right now
    You want to love me, but you don't know how
    You never know what might set me off

    I want a house of stone set out in the woods
    I want a house of stone surrounded by birches
    I want a house of stone set out in the woods

    Pull up the bone, draw out the marrow
    I am the borrow, you are the arrow


    In the rain in Amsterdam
    I thought I saw you
    In a window looking back
    Over your shoulder

    In the rain in Amsterdam
    I was writing to you
    On a postcard
    That I never bothered to send

    There were doves
    Circling above me
    And tulips all around
    What were you trying to tell me?
    I could not make it out

    In the rain in Amsterdam
    I thought I caught you
    Bent over the canals
    Gazing at your own reflection

    In the rain in Amsterdam
    I saw little of the city
    Only water, so much water
    Falling in a veil around me

    Who's to say how long
    'til this rain is done?


    In the morning,
    While you're sleeping
    Barely moving, heavy breathing
    In the morning,
    I am leaving, the horizon
    My undoing

    Different cities, bigger cities
    Through it all, we were drifting
    You cannot keep me

    Keep me steady
    The horizon
    always floating

    Through the walls now, I can hear you
    Hear you moving, barely breathing
    Through the walls now, I can feel you
    If that's not you, it must be thunder


    On our bed the curtain's falling
    Against the din
    Of a descending hush
    And though the night
    Bent to kiss my bare shoulders
    I could not keep out the dark

    Without any warning

    Is there no good news I can tell you?
    Is there nothing that'll shake you
    From your blackest moods
    And your spells of mercury?

    Is there nothing you can tell me?
    Is there nothing that will shake me
    when my temper start to unfurl?
    Who was the first to fail?

    Without any warning

    Even though you may be
    Out of the picture, baby
    You can still call on me
    From time to time
    Even though I may be
    Out of your picture, darling
    You can rely on me
    From time to time


    Where do we go from here on?
    Where's home if you are gone?

    With you, I'm home

    Where do we go from here on,
    When home can be such an unsettling thought?

    With you, I'm home


    There are some days
    Alive in me
    More alive than me
    In those days

    Bleeding into the lake
    Is a blood-red paper corsage
    Once you said that you hated all flowers
    But for magnolias

    You never cared
    For the finer things, for linen or fancy cars
    And the sweet summer hymn of violins
    Played in your ear like nails on a chalkboard

    I never could understand your words
    Though we shared our fair share of blood
    When you said you looked forward to death
    Who were you putting on?

    O Heaven
    I've dreamed you
    for such a long time.
    Heaven is a lage
    inside a crystal bowl
    with tea light and magnolias
    floating on the water
    Forever and ever:
    As far as the eye can wander.

    By pjharvey on Feb 11, 2011

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