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Kilo Kish - Mothe EP Music Album Reviews

The rapper, singer, and designer envisions transition as the ultimate creative moment on a release that transforms her racing thoughts into crackling electricity.

One of the key tricks that video game designers use to facilitate immersion is to beautify lag. Using a range of visual and audio cues, games fill gaps in play with skeletal but engrossing ephemera: animations, jingles, loading screens. These transitional sequences are virtually never the highlight of playing a game, but they epitomize the ways in which change can be connective and catalytic, keeping established spaces alive as old forms fade. Savoring the uncertainty of change, rapper and singer Kilo Kish envisions transition as the ultimate creative moment on Mothe. It’s a snapshot of her ideas in motion and at rest.

Kilo Kish has been in transition since she debuted. In a 2012 profile she described rap as a “little art project” intended to serve as a stopgap between graduating from design school and finding a job. The little art project has remained small as planned, but only relative to her extensive list of interests. Between collaborations and tours with Vince Staples, Gorillaz, and the Internet, she has designed clothing, modeled, built art installations, and edited a design blog. The range and quality of her music have evolved tremendously during this period, but music has never been Kilo’s day job or even her second job. Her quirky 2016 album Reflections in Real Time attempted to make sense of all that life outside of music but ended up sounding tedious and stilted.

Mothe recalibrates. Building from the stream-of-consciousness style that characterizes most of her catalog, Kilo Kish turns her racing thoughts into crackling electricity. Preceded by an installation and a video game interface (also titled Mothe) that debuted earlier this year, the EP is a concentration of Kilo’s various artistic instincts.

Her voice is still a lithe, intimate murmur, but here it expands and condenses, splits and reconstitutes, taking on new dynamism and zest. Her verses on “Like Honey” zig-zag around a wall of pounding bass and strobing synths, cutting oblique paths and images. “I fly into the night from the restroom/They fold my napkin like a crane/I’ll powder my face/Go ’head and have it your way,” she sings. There’s no narrative here, but her details suggest many plausible scenarios: an embittered couple bickering over appetizers at some posh noodle house, maybe, or an exasperated speed dater slipping into the restroom for a meltdown. This expressionist approach allows Kilo’s writing to take on shapes better suited to her voice. Where Reflections relied on transparency that verged on oversharing, Mothe embraces haze and elusion. On “Void,” her casual singing staggers behind pulsating synthesizers, highlighting her flows, which can be hard to detect given her conversational way of rapping. Awash in gothy synths on “Prayer,” Kilo’s soft timbre warps the sting of self-deprecating zingers like “Somewhere in the discourse/Don’t you see me wrapped up in the wrong cause?” and “We’ll disappear, for sure.” It’s unclear whether she’s resigned, or bemused, or indifferent. She could be alluding to online debates, or climate change, or nothing—she doesn’t clarify. But as “Prayer” shifts into an amelodic whorl of spoken word and whirring distortion, that ambiguity becomes defiance. “I laugh in the dark/You search the ground in the dark,” she taunts.

Kilo’s abstraction and ambivalence take their most beautiful shape on “Elegance.” As Ray Brady’s centrifugal production churns around a distorted bass riff that swallows every other sound, she breezily raps and sings through the calm and the storm. Her verses are indistinct, but the way the chorus bubbles up is cathartic. Ultimately, what’s thrilling about Mothe is that it feels like both a capstone on Kilo’s days as a cloud rapper and a template for her future—a sublime moment of lag before she reaches the next level.

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