By Roman Salomone, Contributor
Key Tracks: “Blue Mirror Window”, “Wake”, “Broken”
Kaiba is a four-piece skramz outfit from Athens, Ohio that formed in the summer of 2019. The band consists of vocalist/guitarist Lane Moore, drummer Jack Hampton, vocalist/guitarist Emma Campbell, and bassist/sound engineer Jeff Podolski. The quartet recently embarked on a small tour, hitting up several venues throughout the East Coast and Midwest, but during this time, the band saw fit to drop their first official release in the form of Three Trysts.
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Three Trysts is a three-track demo EP that clocks in at just around 10 and a half minutes. Being a relatively brief series of demos, this release may seem kind of frivolous to review to some, but that’s not the case at all. Three Trysts is spectacular. Not a single second of this EP’s runtime is wasted, as consistently, the band and their performances are laser-focused. The group takes great care into making sure that great fundamentals are at the forefront of each idea they have. The band clearly takes cues from some of the contemporary scene’s best acts like Touché Amoré, State Faults, and Loma Preiste, but what sets Kaiba apart is the groups’ deep appreciation for shoegaze and dream-pop styles. Sprinkled all throughout this EP are the melodic sensibilities of classic Slowdive, the enthralling energy of a Sweredriver single, and even the bold and brash attitude of a Hum record. As razor-sharp and brittle the guitar tones can get, there’s just as many moments where they’re soaked in lush reverbs and cascading modulation effects.
“Blue Mirror Window” kicks this EP off with some serious power, right from the explosive false-intro. Across the 3 minutes this cut lasts, the band effortlessly transitions from section to section, with each moment being just as exciting as the next. The cuttime passage that hits around 0:26 is as brittly-distorted as it is heavenly, and serves as an excellent introduction to how dynamic Moore’s vocals are. There’s also some real blissful guitarwork in this section, that is until around 1:54, when the band kicks back into a rigid and speedy thrash section. Podolski‘s bassline pummels its way over the guitars in the mix, making the track a new level of tense. Equally as pummelling are Hampton’s fiery and intricate drum fills around the 2:28 mark and overall, the track is simply electrifying from beginning to end.
“Wake” is the most upbeat and splashy of the three tracks. Hampton’s rapid snare drum and cymbal hits in the intro are so exhilarating that it just propels the guitar and bass parts straight into the energy. There’s a bit of a classic emo spirit here evoking the anthemic feel of tracks like Sunny Day Real Estate’s “Seven” or Mineral’s “Gloria”, but that’s not to say the song is playing with nostalgia. All the various instrument parts just come together seamlessly and create something so rhapsodic and entrancing. Moore’s vocals are as powerful as they are poetic, with some of their standout lines being “Levee of hope / Snow-covered slope / How have I lost / The only thing I know” and “I’ll stand on a shoebox / Get close to god / Pull the sky out from them / Take em down a notch” are hauntingly gorgeous.
Given Three Trysts is considered a demo, there’s not really any studio tricks or big-budget mastering, but honestly, there’s no need for it. The unpolished grittiness of the recording gives it this gnarly, wintry quality. In a strange way, it’s almost comparable to an old-school black metal recording-fashion that – intended or not – sounds sick. This is most prominent on the final track, “Broken”, which sees a fantastic vocal performance from Campbell that sounds truly sinister. This cut also features some of the best rhythm section interplay, as the melodic bassline and more laidback drum groove pair effortlessly to create a euphoric experience on their own. The chime-like tone of the lightly-strum guitars is beautifully melancholy, and it’s topped with these occasional noises of what seems like strings being strummed past the bridge on a Jazzmaster style guitar. The twinkly sound it makes just echoes in a rapture of effects. The slight reverb on Campbell’s sharp and seering voice also makes lyrics like “Spilled in my wounds and made them worse” and “I step ‘round your body / And the bloodstains never come out” positively bone-chilling. The stellar, icy guitar lead around the 1:38 mark seems almost post-punk influenced, but nonetheless it sounds immaculate. This track is stunning to say the least, and it makes for an outstanding finish to an already brilliant release.
Here’s the situation at hand: this EP kicks ass. This is without a doubt one of the most exciting, passionate, and refreshing listens I’ve had in the past couple years. Seriously, you’ll be hard pressed to find something this quality if you tried. Go listen to this, support the band as much as you can, and catch these guys live every chance you get. Kaiba rules.
Listen here: https://kaiba.bandcamp.com/releases