Debut from Australian singer/songwriter Mark Mitchell fuses indie-pop sensibility with...
Marcus Scott 2003-03-26
Clue to Kalo is 23 year old Australian singer/songwriter/laptop composer Mark Mitchell. This debut is at heart an indie pop album; all the signifiers are there, soft male vocals singing introverted heartfelt, angst-ridden lyrics (reminiscent of the likes of Coldplay) to fragile accompaniment.
The music is a little different though, much like that on the Morr label or Dntel's Life is Full of Possibilities; composed primarily on a laptop but pulling in traditional instruments like the acoustic guitar.
Personally I'm a little weary of this kind of soft, gentle electronica. Melancholic prettiness is such an overused gesture that it can seem like a cop out, going through the rather cliched(e)motions like a replacement for lack of deeper conviction. It doesn't help also that at times Mitchell's lyrical palette is so forlorn and sentimental it's hard to engage with (beyond hoping he'll cheer up and get over it by the next song).
That's not to say that there aren't some great moments here. "Dies over Distance" strips away the digital machinations to a delicate lullaby from bass, keyboards, vocals and drums. Restricted to these carefully crafted, gently creaking parts, Mitchell conjures up an intimate and heartfelt song.
Problems occur when the overuse of sonic tricks and editing that the laptop approach allows gives way to indulgence. Too often these aesthetic elements evoke nothing more than themselves. It's as if Mitchell is trying too hard to stamp the idea that this album was made with a computer rather than a traditional pop set up.
Interestingly, the opposite occurs when Mitchell drenches the listener in electronics. "Still we felt Bulletproof" starts simply with keyboard and voice, though the melody soon disappears under whispers and blips as the track deftly warps out of recognition. After weaving through minutely changing time signatures and synthetic textures, it settles into a happy melody that's barely recognisable from the opening one. It's as if the song has resolved itself...
It's a hard thing to incorporate traditional songwriting into the resolutely abstracted instrumental approach of electronica; adding lyrics to such music inevitably detracts from its mystique and power, filling in the spaces previously filled by the listeners imagination. Hopefully next time Mitchell will turn the corner and overcome these obstacles completely..