Album Review: Kristen Kontrol ‘X Communicate’

Regardless of medium, one of the hallmarks of a true artist is that they are unafraid to stretch themselves creatively and look to push, redefine and even break down the neatly compartmentalised barriers they find themselves in. They are constantly in a state of flux, and relish exploring creative tangents. Kristin Welchez is one such artist. Shedding the skin of Dee Dee, (the heavily fringed lead singer of The Dum Dum Girls, a girl group inspired by the scuzz of 1960s garage), she has transformed into Kristin Kontrol, a slick amalgamation of nostalgic references on her debut solo album X-Communicate.

The album itself could be seen as a glimpse into the act of metamorphosis. Throughout the first half of the album, she makes references to her previous efforts.  Songs such as White Street heavily draw on the perpetually swirling, disorientating fuzzy guitar, which we hear again in Show Me. There is also a welcome hint of Siouxsie and the Banshees in Face 2 Face’s pompous pop sensibility overlaid a post-punk riff. It felt like she was trying to draw the same audience in, and as you fall deeper down the rabbit-hole she strips away the more familiar elements, leaving herself primed for complete transformation for the album’s title track. And what a triumph it is.

As a single, X Communicate is quite simply a masterclass in how to write a good pop song. Restrained repetitive beats allowed Kristin Kontrol to exercise her impressive vocal range to full effect, which she unleashed with joyous abandon over her ridiculously catchy chorus of hypnotically Gothic atmospherics, making this an unabashed pastiche of everything 1980s. Appropriately, this track was followed by Skin Shed, a homage to EDM and Disco and evocative of Goldfrappe at their dazzling peak.

But the album isn’t without its dubious moments. The pseudo-Socratically titledWhat is Love initially seemed like a well-timed moment for some romance. But by the mid-tempo 80s power melody of the chorus of Kristin belting out “What is Love, Did I Ever Know” it feels that Kristin has dug too deep into her influences, and comes off sounding cheesy and overworked, while Going Thru the Motionslives up to its name.

Overall, even despite the growing pains, X-Communicate re-establishes Kristin Welchez’s talent as an artist within a completely new genre, which is something to be admired- and she produces some fun, well written songs in the process.  Let’s hope she can build on them.

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