Kero Kero Bonito Evolves From Sugar Pop Into Indie Rock with New Album

Jun Sung
The cover of Kero Kero Bonito's latest album "Time 'n' Place."

Known for their light, joyful J-Pop influences, fluid combination of Japanese and English lyrics, and electronic instrumentation, the London-based Kero Kero Bonito is flipping their script for their latest album, “Time ‘n’ Place.” The band is made up of a talented trio consisting of producers Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled, as well as singer Sarah Midori Perry.

Bonito’s newest effort strays from the candy-pop identity of their previous projects — ”Intro Bonito” and “Bonito Generation — and incorporates experimental indie rock and hard-hitting guitar riffs that drive a majority of the songs on the album. Yet, even with this new sound, the group has still stuck to their roots with a distinct, upbeat pop sound on their tracks. Sarah Midori Perry has a voice that is easily recognizable and her light, innocent-sounding singing juxtaposes well against some of the heavier instrumentation and production.

Based on Kero Kero Bonito’s earlier work, it may seem like the band is going in a completely different direction, and that thought is understandable. Rather than the fun, bubblegum dance pop of the past, they now incorporate a darker, heavier sound into their music — best illustrated by the glitches in the chorus of “Only Acting” that is replaced with jarring screams.

Right from the onset of the album, Kero Kero Bonito come out swinging with powerful guitar riffs and bright synth sounds on the track “Outside.” After this overture, the mellow “Time Today” presents a swinging drum beat and a smooth, soft melody, as well as bright auxiliary keyboard sounds. Then comes the trio of songs “Make Believe,” “Dear Future Self” and “Visiting Hours,” which provide a new perspective on the type of indie rock sound that the group is trying to create, highlighted particularly in the simple but unique instrumental breaks.

The last song, “Rest Stop,” sums up exactly the type of experimental music that KKB is trying to create with “Time ’n’ Place:” commencing with just a xylophone, the song grows to become a mix of avant-garde electronic music and muffled vocals contrasted with a simple drumbeat. The song ends perfectly with solo vocals from Perry to round out the project.

This new era of Kero Kero Bonito’s music is just another iteration of what they have been doing in the past. Instead of merely fusing Japanese and English cultures, the band is also fusing the genres of pop and indie rock. They are continuing their tradition of “fusion music” filtered through more angles.

The band’s evolution from a clean, bubbly, pop sound to a gritty, muddy indie rock sound shows the versatility of every member in the band. Lobban and Bulled’s producing master class on this album ranges from a simple pop beat to what is essentially experimental synth sounds. With these various contrasting elements in the production, Perry balances the album with her bright, twinkly voice.

Kero Kero Bonito’s brand of “fusion music,” whether it be a mix of Japanese and English culture, or a mix of pop and indie rock, is a constant foundation in all of their projects. With “Time ‘n’ Place,” the group have been able to incorporate a new layer of heavy instrumentation while still retaining the core of who they are as a band.

Kero Kero Bonito’s evolution from sugar pop to experimental indie rock is a progression that leaves listeners excited for what more they have in store in the future.

Email Jun Sung at [email protected]

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