KHODARA offers up one of the more peculiar pop releases of recent times.
Pop. When that is all that you define the sound of your most recent release as, people will immediately gather an idea of what is in store. These assumptions are right in most circumstances, but KHODARA has made sure that her latest pop-branded EP, Billie, defies the convention.
KHODARA possesses a lovely vocal that holds a poppy charm, but with the depth of a blues voice and pangs of peculiarity. This sound is what forms the backbone of the Billie EP, leading listeners through smoky corridors of blues-pop and electronic ambience into an EP that is simultaneously extremely modern and very based in the past. This, again, falls down to the vocal, with the instrumentation throughout the release being minimalistic.
Few tracks sum that up better than second song Anxious. It is the EP’s most synth-oriented track, using them as the main source of sound as an ambient melody underpins a tender and vulnerable vocal. Yet even this synthwork is minimalistic. Nothing is complex or elaborate, with the vocal being the most textured sound in the mix. This is indicative of every song on the EP and embodies the unspoken message of “voice first, music later”.
Though that isn’t to say that all of the music is very simple. After all, a release with too few instruments would be excruciatingly boring and difficult to be captivating from a pop perspective. So, as such, the latter half of the release gives the music ample opportunity to shine. Twisted Mind sees the instrumentation play a bigger role in the feel of the song, with an oddly bossa nova drum section entwining with spacious synths alongside a vocal that audibly shares the spotlight for the first time on the EP. Likewise, the closing number Lunatic would be dull and disinteresting if the synths didn’t take the lead and create an atmosphere of tension and dramatism.
There has been a growing number of acts like KHODARA in recent years; acts that endeavour to subvert the pop convention and make the voice the centre of aural attention. It’s a big risk in the pop sector, though also a fascinating one that may be an act of rebellion against the over-produced and electronically augmented sounds of larger mainstream artists.
Whatever your thoughts on the slow-pop style may be, KHODARA makes it worth listening to. It’s a sombre soundtrack to hardship and struggle, produced in a way that doesn’t feel forced or manufactured. It’s a human voice, surrounded by electronics, and it is conveying very human emotion.