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Klangstof’s debut album Close Eyes To Exit, released on LA’s Mind Of A Genius imprint, is an interesting testament to the upsides and downsides of an artist trying to define a signature sound. The album, as anyone who’s listened to the steady stream of singles that’ve been released in recent months may have guessed, is a sweet and soothing exercise in synthpop-meets-indie-rock exuberance, full of catchy melodic hooks and spacey drum beats.
Klangstof has an indisputable command of melody writing, and nearly every song on Close Eyes To Exit has ear worm synth lines and guitar parts that are bound to be stuck in the listener’s head for days. There are scores of small details littered throughout the 11-track LP, from the enthralling crescendo of curtain-raiser “Doolhof” to the nimble interplay of voice and guitar on “Seasons,” that show Klangstof are more than capable songwriters, producers, and sound designers, but a cohesive group that crafts songs with intention, vision and purpose. It is these little sonic treats that make up for the occasional silliness and cheesiness of the lyrics and vocal performance.
But if the album is plagued by one thing, it’s an at-times vexing sense of sameness. Klangstof definitely has a formula that they’re comfortable working from, and much of the album follows a similar pattern of sparse intros that build layer upon layer, leading into echoing choruses of layered vocals and half time drums. This also leads to a deficit of energy; it’s not until “Seasons,” the fifth song on the album, that we get something remotely groovy or beat-driven. And even when Klangstof attempts to deviate from this formula, with the waltz-rhythm of “Telephone,” the spaced-out synth whirls of “Hostage,” or The XX-inspired sobriety of “The Butcher,” they seem to be restrained by their commitment to their own aesthetic, and one is often left wondering how fascinating these songs might have been if they had taken their deviations and ran with them.
This is not to suggest that Close Eyes To Exit is a bad album in any way. On the contrary, it is perhaps made even more endearing for all of its flaws. It is an album that has unmistakable personality, a presence and a humanity that make it far greater as a whole than the sum of its parts. The album is, in a sense, like the deliciously detuned guitars of its stand out and title track — a well-orchestrated debut made all the more tangible through its imperfections.
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