Koalra are back again with a new album. The Portland-based rock outfit has been constantly evolving through the years, capturing a skillset steeped in noise rock, krautrock, and post-punk. For their latest release, we see them diving deeply into the kosmische-Musik side of their multifaceted identity, with a concept album entitled “The fires burned everything we had. When the dust settles, They will do it again.”
The tone of this record is deeply unsettling and anxious, a response to the unease and foreboding sense as to where the whole world is headed. Koalra was never one to shy against social and political themes, and here the music makes most of the talking. Each track is around ten minutes long and with each representing a fragmented piece of the album title. Perhaps the apocalyptic sound of the LP and its four tracks also correlates to the four horsemen in a way. This may be mere speculation but it’s a connection that feels very much appropriate. For however advanced human life in the 21st century, the last few years have brought us to a tipping point socially and politically as well as environmentally. It’s a sentiment that the howling guitars, the brooding rhythms, and the restless nature of this album sonically conjure.
The album starts with the chaos and intensity of “The Fires Burned”. Here the band pours in all of their capacity for noise. Sound-wise, this is the apocalyptic event of the record, with roaring guitars and drums pounding to their limit. The moment when everything goes south and destruction befalls us all. The following track “Everything We Had” then presents a downward trajectory, where narrative-wise we all inspect the immediate aftermath of the “burning”. Uncertainty brims over the mix, with industrial sounds and motorik rhythms accompanied by pained lyrics and howling siren synths.
The state of emergency ends in“When The Dust Settles”, where Koalra presents a slow cinematic burn. A moment of exhalation to see through the barren landscape. Where its other tracks had urgency, this one feels stretched out and elaborate, before venturing into crystalline post-punk where the guitars and synths clamor against each other, slowly building into a crescendo of noise by the end. “They Will Do It Again” ends with an alarming drone synth and lingering repetition, almost as if a warning to be vigilant. It’s the track with more vocal presence, which makes it feel less lonely than the others, although the lingering sense of dread is still there.
Koalra’s wide reach and unhindered drive for experimentation make each one of their releases very exciting. The Fires Burned is a marvel of rock and krautrock combined, and a stark reflection of the current state we’re in.