Photo: Jimmy Fontaine

Kristin Kontrol: X-Communicate

As Kristin Kontrol, Kristin Welchez has brilliantly shown that her brand of mischief is as complex as it is loving. Trouble is still her name.
Kristin Kontrol
Sub Pop

Kristin Welchez’s endeavours in Dum Dum Girls show more than a yearning for pop. Dee Dee, as she calls herself, tried out an indie rock flavor on Only in Dreams. It was not bad or artificial, yet it found difficulty separating itself from the crowd. They would have to be ahead of the curve, dealing with similar-sounding La Sera and Best Coast. A little dash of pop would give even more life to Dum Dum Girls’ Too True.

Too True was a misty, mysterious work that never dabbled in the sweetness of the genre. It stayed away from the rock roots in favor of a clearer sound. “You got Rimbaud eyes,” Dee Dee sang, collecting her thoughts at the astonishing eyes she stared at. When she claimed that trouble was her name, audiences understood that she was a mischief seeker. But when she decided to take on the project Kristin Kontrol, that trouble takes on another form. Welchez would not be completely pure–no one can do that.

X-Communicate becomes another leap forward for Welchez. The musician embraces the vocal spark of Madonna, while taking on an electronic presence fitting of a Tegan and Sara number. X-Communicate relies on religious words to keep it together. Amens, talks of God, and the concept of love find their way interspersed on the record to tie in the idea of excommunication. Perhaps the most apt lyric would be on “Drive the Night”: “Tell me when your heart became a place of exile.” The relationship between lovers becomes placed in a religious context. Whether religious or not, Welchez inputs creativity to a pop record that might have been burdened by lyrical simplicity.

The word constantly hovered over on X-Communication is love. On the Ratatat-sounding “Skin Shed”, the artist makes reference to Nina Simone, placing her adjacent to the line “I bled over telephone”. She places her influence on the table, making her words poppy and wise in the battlefield of love. “What Is Love” does not answer any questions. However, its best input is how it clarifies a bipolar mania the artist feels. “God bless the mania”, she sings, talking about how disorder allowed her to work fast and hard. It, perhaps, distracted her from thoughts that challenged her and made her a wreck. Her exile would be a footnote; she can create even after such crisis.

“Goin’ Through the Motions” extends this crisis. Welchez begins to ponder the idea of fatalism; this is not a surprise given the track’s title. Yet it is the angelic atmosphere emitted by production values that make her words have gravity. She questions whether the walls around her have opinions on her life. Audiences become placed near her turmoil, able to see her sitting on a bed in a lonely room, likely praying. But the pop does not stop, and that is what gives X-Communicate life.

“Show Me” can suffer from its non-challenging lyrics, yet its brassy riff and clear instrumentation shows that Welchez knows how to conduct herself. “(Don’t) Wannabe” is pop that chases a light. While Tegan and Sara-like beats bring joy, there are angelic calls that accentuate the holiness of the record. The catchy title track can blaze dance floors with its fast and flashy electronics. The Madonna tone of Welchez overshadows the lackluster strings that conclude the song. Even the slow, Lana Del Rey-esque “Smoke Rings” heightens pleasure with its melodramatic rhythm

“I blow smoke rings / Into my lovers’ eyes / It’s a fancy way / Of saying goodbye.” These are words that Welchez and her audiences can live by. It brings back images of Helena Bonham Carter in Fight Club and redefines them. The musician praises something holy while practicing how to be a badass. Her sound might be more poppier than in the Dum Dum Girls, but the one thing that matters is still there: she’s still trouble.

RATING 7 / 10