Portland punk/noise rock outfit Koalra have something new and special in their latest EP Soft as Clouds. Coming in with a fresh lineup and a different environment from their native Chicago, we see the band gliding into new sonic territory with this latest offering. From the abrasive punk and fuzzy rhythms of their debut self-titled album in 2019, we have gradually seen Koalra changing up their instrumentation to incorporate more synths and atmospheric sounds. Only two years later, their toolbox of styles has grown significantly, with new wave, krautrock and goth now intertwined with their loose 90’s alt-rock sound.
The sound of Soft as Clouds is in the title. Sonically, this is the band’s first foray into a more subdued and laid-back feel. From the opening track “In the Mouth A Desert” (which is a cover from 90’s indie legends Pavement), we see this clear divergence in the form of atmospheric synth touches and airy reverb-soaked vocals. Where the original is rough and loose in its garage/lo-fi charm, Koalra attempts a cooler aesthetic overlaid with plenty of textural synths and shoegaze embellishments.
“Sunday Fuzz” follows with a bright and uptempo vigor that perks up the EP’s energy. This is reinforced by vocals and riffs that stretch and soar on top of the mix, ending on a liberating feeling as all elements build up to harmonic bliss. “Red Rays” maintains this sunny disposition with a hypnotic motorik beat that’s bouncy and light. Perfect for a song about moving above and beyond our limitations despite all the hardships we face. Fourth track “Kingdom” continues the krautrock streak, this time accompanied by smooth guitar tones that makes it feel like you’re soaring above the clouds in a hazy dream where nothing can go wrong.
Surprisingly, it’s in the title track that Koalra shakes things up and moves into their familiar noise-rock dissonance. “Soft as Clouds” has razor-edged riffs, sharper textures and a rhythmic stop-and go motion that feels sinister and foreboding. In this song it feels like their old and new sound comes together for a final experimental push. The combination is fairly out there, yet it conveys an intriguing sound that latches on and never lets go.
Koalra find themselves innovating yet again in their latest EP and hitting gold. With their latest album currently in the works and slated for release in August of 2021, there’s nowhere else for this indie band to go but up.