The sonically smooth and gloriously harmonic quartet known as Kalbells released their sophomore album, Max Heart March 26, 2021. This release trails behind a string of teaser EPs delivered by the group in the last three months. Many of the tracks uphold the trademark dream-like, hypnotic sounds of the debut album Ten Flowers. However, fans can delight in a few new surprises as Kalbells pushes its boundaries.
With only ten tracks, the album runs on the lighter side, finishing at just under forty minutes. This is not to the band’s detriment. Each track takes the listener on a journey through shimmering synth and surrealism. When they make it to the other side, they find a wealth of unconventional instruments paired brilliantly with exploratory concepts. The group experiments with congas, saxophone, flugabone, and an ewi (electric wind instrument) to name a few unique instruments. These complement lead vocalist Kalmia Traver’s visual songwriting. With such a unique spin on the already “alternative” genre, Kalbell’s tracks are a full meal. Dessert is served in the form of soft flute and delectable imagery.
Kalbells’ Callbacks Fostering Creativity
The album begins with the slow and melancholic opening of “Red Marker.” It is reminiscent of Kalbells’ magical track “Craving Art Droplets (feat. Ryan Power),” which dropped in 2017. It serves as a glittery, iridescent gateway to “Flute Windows Open in the Rain,” where Travers showcases her gift with lingering, poignant saxophone. “Purplepink” follows, serving as a distinct callback to the glory of the 80s. It features a raging electric guitar solo and psychedelic visuals in the official music video.
A Picture Worth a Thousand Words
Between the decadent “Poppy Tree” and contrasting frantic and breathy “Hump the Beach,” Max Heart covers all bases of the emotional spectrum. Traver’s confides that her visual lyricism allows for such a range. “I feel like the visual for me is really generative,” she says. “That’s just a way to get me talking about my feelings more, and I think it can be hard to talk about your feelings. The little visual things are little entry points.”
This visual lyricism takes a front seat in tracks like “Diagram of Me Sleeping.” The smoking saxophone alternates between arresting verses. “My favorite kind of sleep is when I’m dry. Toasty little baby looking straight into the eye. Then I roll around and toast the other side.” Could anything be cozier?
“Pickles” lives on its own plane, defying any sense of “normal” for this colorful band. The traditional sounds of rippling piano and songbird whistling take an interesting detour. Halfway through the track it veers into a new world with a hip-hop feature from Brooklyn-based rapper and multimedia artist Miss Eaves. This song proves Kalbells welcomes any sound under the sun and doesn’t subscribe to genre-norms.
It was hard to believe that the quartet could accomplish anything more outstanding than the intriguing Ten Flowers. However, the group continues to push the envelope with Max Heart, giving fans and reviewers a run for their money. To further explore their discography, visit Kalbells’ page on Bandcamp. With any luck, you’ll see them back on tour this summer.