Clue to Khalo - One Way, It's Every Way

"Whatever: the lyrics are the worst thing about the record. At times they sound like they've been written after a therapy session and all of them tend to err towards the sanctimonious. The album is improved immeasurably by just letting the songs wash over you. "


 


Clue to Khalo – One Way, It's Every Way (Leaf)


'All of us are in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.' You can't blame Oscar, I suppose, but anyone who uses this saying in all seriousness needs to be hit. Not only is it ghastly (in much the same way that the song Imagine is), it is tired from overuse. Similar examples abound in music journalism. It is time, for example, to stop describing music as sounding like the Beach Boys if all the said album contains are a few harmonies. The most ridiculous example I can recall came with Fennesz's Endless Summer album on Mego a few years back. I think the only reason Brian Wilson was mentioned was the title – the album itself, whilst great, was built from feedback, static and glitches. Hell, if you can find a tune on the whole of the Mego label's output you're a better man than I.


 


So, as a way of justifying the above rant, the great Brian Wilson has been mentioned in conjunction with Clue to Khalo's second album, One Way, It's Every Way. It's meant as a compliment, of course, but all it does is set expectations that cannot be met. Personally I'd compare the album with those of Eric Matthews and Sam Prekop. These artists sing dreamy (but slightly skewed) pop songs using interesting instrumentation and have wispy, if not actually fey, voices.


 


Mark Mitchell is the man behind Clue to Khalo. Whilst it's essentially a solo gig he's backed by accordion players, mandolin players, saxophonists and violinists. Of course, often as not extra instruments such as these are added to hide the fact that the songs themselves are pretty boring and run of the mill. Songs that feature gospel choirs and orchestras should always be treated with suspicion for this reason. On listening to this album for the first time I suspected that the same thing was happening here too. The songs passed by in something of a blur with only the instrumental flourishes standing out. There were some pleasantly poppy tunes but none of them really grabbed the attention. Instead it was the Terry Riley-esque minimalism on Come to Mean a Natural Law that leapt out; similarly it was the flute and sax playing on The Older the Young (sounding just like Mercury Rev circa See You on the Other Side) that leapt out. Elsewhere the honking of a sax or an electric guitar solo appeared to be the musical equivalent of Mount Kilimanjaro – a violent intrusion into the midst of hundreds of miles of flat nothing.


 


But on second and third listening things began to change. This was for two reasons – one reason being the simple fact that all songs take on more specific forms through repeated listening. Songs that had previously passed me by revealed hooks and riffs that I'd missed. The second reason is that I made sure that I ignored the lyrics. I'm not sure what is going on with them – Mitchell seems to be debating mysticism vs. science or some such nonsense. Whatever: the lyrics are the worst thing about the record. At times they sound like they've been written after a therapy session and all of them tend to err towards the sanctimonious. The album is improved immeasurably by just letting the songs wash over you. One Way, It's Every Way is a gently rolling album that won't astonish on first listen but will slowly reveal the subtleties contained within it. It's worth persevering.


 


Words: Chris Dawson.