There’s something special in live music that’s hard to recreate in a recording setting — the spontaneity of the sound, the reverb of the room, and the position of the instruments and singers all contribute to how organic and intimate the experience feels. This doesn’t seem to be a problem for Switzerland’s Kush K however, as their album Lotophagi perfectly captures the tiny emotional nuances that breathes life to contemporary pop music.
Spearheaded by the primary songwriter Catia and supported by friends Pascal, Paul and Nicola, their first album falls mostly under the umbrella of pop, but this one heavily branches out and explores to its heart’s content. There is no set template, each song is merely focused on being the best that it can be. Their strongest suit is in its colorful vocals and intricate harmonies. Every sung chorus and hummed lines comes with a staggering amount of soul and emotion that can range from hauntingly provocative to blissfully surreal.
The album opens with “Forever Only”, which channels The Bangles with its bouncy rhythm and an optimistic 80’s spring in its step. “Long Time No See” is instrumentally sparse with only percussion and vocals dominating the space. The use of negative space sells the song in a way that it feels like you are in the same room as the performers. It also makes Catia’s voice really shine — she has the ethereal falsetto of Sarah Machlachlan while having the heavy grit of Florence Welch. “Mrk” starts with a faster pace, chased by a frantic bass inlaid with cinematic organs. But this speed is flipped into a slow-moving ocean of vocal harmonies and effervescent synths. The sections alternate in and out until it converges in the climactic end.
“Rest For The Wicked” is where Kush K’s sonic arrangement is at its best. The vocal harmonies are still at a stellar level, but are now supported with crystalline keys that swell and glitter in a carousel of glee. It feels like a dream in every sense of the word, a respite for all the anxieties of living through a difficult year.
And then things suddenly plunge with “Her”. Rife with dissonance that can at times feel sinister and bleak. A complete 180 from the blissful harmonies of the previous tracks. It was as if the angel we once knew has turned into a banshee ready to haunt us in our sleep.
It’s always fun to see artists push the boundaries of what they can do. Kush K is a remarkably talented band, and with Lotophagi it’s obvious that they’re still hitting their stride. Who knows what kind of atmosphere they can immerse us in next.