Kero Kero Bonito
Polyvinyl · April 21, 2021
Kero Kero Bonito’s newest EP, Civilisation II, is a worthy successor to their magnificent 2019 EP Civilisation I and builds upon the themes that were previously illustrated in that work. Its sound, while similar to Civilisation I, is distinctly more blissful and serene, and the lyrical content of the EP feels much more focused. While it does feel a bit quick, it leaves the listener anticipating whatever release Kero Kero Bonito has coming up next.
The first track, “The Princess and the Clock,” teased this EP earlier this year, telling an interesting, almost mythical story about a cursed princess trapped in a room, painting pictures and figuring out how to free herself. The track shows a distinct storytelling skill that previously hadn’t been exhibited by Kero Kero Bonito, and which most fans would probably hope shows up on later work. The track is very upbeat, which couples with the story quite well and confers a rather mystical feeling. There’s a specific point in the beginning of the track where Sarah Bonito’s voice is sampled and mixed into a new melody, and that leaves a lasting impact on the listener, as well as the wall of sound that the synthesizer solo creates toward the latter half of the track. It serves very well as an introduction to the musical themes of the EP, and points toward the more inventive lyrical areas that the band ventures into later on the tracklist.
“21/04/20” is a track that’s extremely low-key and calm compared to the other two tracks on this EP. It’s more reminiscent of Kero Kero Bonito’s earlier work, being extremely chipper and cheerful in tone. Sarah Bonito’s voice sounds uniquely soft and whispery on this track, in stark contrast to Civilisation I and especially to their last LP, Time ‘n’ Place. The song itself is an ode to the global quarantine that the world plunged itself into in 2020, the title being a reference to the date when lockdowns started. However, unlike other media that has come out in the past year talking about the pandemic, this song takes a uniquely bittersweet approach, describing the effects of being closer with one’s family after being trapped inside their house, and seeing other individuals in the community try to replicate some form of normalcy. There’s a distinct chord shift in the second verse, which lyrically delves into watching the world change in real time, most probably for the worse. The song itself ends somewhat abruptly, and more could have possibly been done with the lyrical content, but it’s a solid track nonetheless.
The crown jewel of this record is the final track, “Well Rested,” which is the longest Kero Kero Bonito song to date, lasting about 7 minutes. It incorporates more glitchy and distorted melodies than other tracks on the EP, and is sonically and thematically more reminiscent of the tracks on Civilisation I. The most intriguing aspect of this song is the lyrical content – Kero Kero Bonito use religious imagery to address the climate crisis, which is a very interesting allegory, referring to the Earth as a god and referencing Gaia, an ancient Greek personification of the Earth. It draws a thematic parallel to the reverence of religious circles to the reverence that humanity should be having for the Earth. This is contrasted with much more bombastic sounds when the lyrics delve into the resilience of humanity and civilization, perhaps illustrating a duality between man and nature. The song climaxes with a repetitive chant and an explosion of synthesized melodies, and afterwards becomes distorted. There’s a cool synthesizer solo, and the EP finishes with the sound of water flowing, coupled with scattered electronic notes – an impactful image of nature’s power.
The EP feels as if it was left on a cliffhanger, which was probably done on purpose – more likely than not, there will be a Civilisation III, which will most probably bring the series to a close. It’s definitely a project to look forward to, especially in Kero Kero Bonito’s sound and lyrical prowess developing further. While it isn’t as consistent or impactful as 2019’s Civilisation I, Civilisation II certainly is a worthy successor, and is definitely worth a listen.