Review Summary: Always just okay.
American-born electronic musician and producer Ellie Herring wants to show you her world. In fact, she’d like nothing more than to compress its entire contents into a giant fish bowl, toss in a lump or two of sugar, stir the concoction until it turns a pale pink, and then douse you with it. Regrettably though, Kite Day
, her sophomore LP release for the Racecar imprint, makes heavy work of building on the sonic palette first glimpsed on 2011’s Flailing in Attraction
EP and 2012’s multi-layered yet easily excitable Satiate
. So while Herring may at least have had the excuse of being relatively new to the scene whenever her muse seemed to falter on prior releases, Kite Day
’s shortcomings – of which there are many – suggest instead that the artist’s world simply may not be as deep and wide as was once believed.
There are a myriad of reasons for being disappointed with the results of Kite Day
. To begin with, Herring’s clout has extended itself significantly since the days of “Died to Meet You” and “Crave Secrets”, with several songs in her discography now capable of laying claim to the distinction of having been reinterpreted by the likes of fellow musicians such as Amtrac, Nature Program, Skeleton Hands, and Porcelain Fangs. Elsewhere, the artist herself has also since shared a stage with performers such as Class Actress, SSION, and Ana Sia. It’s the kind of immersive, cultivated growth process that so often lends itself to a veritable vault of opportunities for innovation – which makes it all the more deflating to hear her resort to the same old tropes to get a message across.
That being said, Kite Day
starts promisingly enough, with Herring and guest vocalist Amber meshing well on the bustling riot of activity that is opening track “Anti-Alias”. However, the exceedingly juvenile-sounding “Don’t Fall”, which follows, finds itself decidedly intent on doing just the opposite. The track loses all momentum by the end of its first ninety seconds and quickly descends to a near-complete stall. Herring loops around aimlessly for a bit at this juncture, and in the subsequent procedural lull, it almost feels like she’s turning around to face us as if to say, “Okay, now what?” The rest of the song is just the American producer beating her tune into submission, seemingly nudging the composition in any direction that comes to mind in search of some hitherto unseen truth. Unsurprisingly, salvation is never found. “Thinking JFK” is next, and Herring at least shows some inventiveness here
, with a multi-tiered arrangement that takes on an ethereal, torch-like quality thanks to some gorgeous, sing-into-the-abyss vocals that recalls some of The xx’s recent work on Coexist
All positive noteworthiness stops there, however, with the seven remaining songs on Kite Day
coming across as variously shorn of inspiration, material, or a combination thereof – an observation subtly corroborated by the fact that only four of the remaining cuts consist of patently new material (the final three songs are remixes of earlier numbers by VHVL, Albert Swarm, and Sines + Katastrophic). Of these three new numbers, “Full Eyed” and “Say A.M.” feel deformed and incomplete, in no small part thanks to their insistence on applying the same monochromatic aberrations to advance their theses, whereas “10 Hours in Prague”, while host to an intriguingly gritty tonal body, contains little else. And the less said about the three remixes, the better.
But while I realize that it’s extremely poor form to expect for satisfaction to be supplied on-demand, especially in the case of relatively newer artists such as Herring, it remains hard to escape the sense that an album like Kite Day
would have benefited greatly from the most basic guest slot of all – an added gestation period. As it stands, none of the tracks herein possess nearly enough personality or narrative to make them sufficiently interesting to warrant repeat listens. This may not be a crime in and of itself, but the fact that all Herring has proven tonight – that she is yet to find her voice, despite being over two records in, surely is.