On her beautifully-delicate, new EP, ‘Mothertime’, Kalmia Traver reveals her creative limits as Kalbells are boundless.
In another life, Kalmia Traver was probably a butterfly, as the artist she is today bears little resemblance to what she was at the beginning of her career. Her formative years with Rubblebucket was bold, imaginative, and cathartic. Like a caterpillar, the collective featured many moving parts, but each served a purpose in moving the electrifying, art-pop marching band forward. As a solo artist under the moniker Kalbells, Traver’s artistry has evolved into a stunning but delicate display of hypnotic alt-pop. Her music, like observing a butterfly freely flying within a meadow of sunflowers, leaves hearts fluttering (pun intended).
Traver’s solo debut, Ten Flowers, was uplifting in its nature, as she shared her personal struggle and survival with cancer. It was, as we said back in July 2017, her sigil and her rallying cry to us. Three years later, her transformation continues, as she moves from the breezy jet streams of her first album to more cosmic dimensions on her new EP, Mothertime.
The record is a tight four songs, yet each is an extravagant experience. Opener “Mothertime” is a fleeting yet delirious orchestral electro-pop number that romanticizes what space travel could be like. The drifting melody, the subtle bursts of beats, the fluttery notes of a flute, and Traver’s calm voice evoke images of celestial object. For Traver, however, they represent her mother, as their two paths have been forever entwined yet they’ve arrived at different destinations.
“Tremble” replicates this calm delirium. Beats, synths, and a xylophone harmoniously collide to form an Atoms for Peace-like atmosphere. As the saxophone quietly blares through the neo-psychedelia, Traver asks us to “comfort me”. The slow head-throbbing “Precipice”, meanwhile, showcases Traver and her band’s sleek, seductive side. Part trip-hop and part alternative electro-pop, Traver describes the vulnerability one experiences when they’ve fallen in love.
The EP’s highlight, meanwhile, lies in glittering disco-pop tune, “Cool and Bendable”. The grooviness of ’70s disco is intertwined with the delirium of early ’00s electronica. For nearly 3 1/2 minutes, Traver suspends the listener insider her dreamy and alluring sonic vortex. Just as the song is about to reach its climax, she hammers the brakes. This momentary silence creates a drifting sensation, but then the track accelerates again. Suddenly, Traver is piloting us through through a delirious space in search of “something special, something cool and bendable”. It’s not an object we are seeking, but to rediscover who we are once again. And as Kalbells, Traver is indeed something special, something unpredictable, and something stunning to observe. Her evolution, though, likely is not complete.
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