Record of the Week: Kaleidoscope: 2017 7"

Kaleidoscope: 2017 7” (D4MT Labs) Brand new 7” from New York’s Kaleidoscope, who are, in my opinion, one of the most exciting bands in the DIY punk scene, and these three songs only serve to further stoke my enthusiasm. In case you aren’t familiar, Kaleidoscope have deep roots in the NYC / Toxic State Records scene, with members having served time in Deformity, JJ Doll, Ivy, and numerous others I’m sure. An artsy approach to DIY punk has always been one of the trademarks of that scene, but Kaleidoscope seem to be taking that vibe further than anyone else. Their rough, DIY recordings and risograph-printed record sleeves are definitely of a piece with the whole Toxic State aesthetic (and like the best of those bands, the visual aesthetic is ambitious, well-developed, and utterly fascinating), but it’s the actual music where Kaleidoscope truly shines. I’m not sure how they’ve managed to make music that simultaneously feels so inventive and free while still retaining pretty much everything I love about hardcore, but they’ve done it. Whereas it seems like most bands go about things in an additive way, trying to add more layers or finding newer and more arcane influences, Kaleidoscope seem like they’re penetrating to the heart of the matter, trying to latch directly onto that primal, deep-seated nerve that makes great music great. It’s a difficult thing to explain (and obviously an even harder thing to do), but the result is that this record feels refreshingly free of context, like it could have been made at any point in the last 30 or so years, but only by the most committed and adept musicians. The two songs on the a-side are killer, but for me the highlight of the record is the b-side, “Scorched Earth.” This song takes several of the most distinctive elements of Kaleidoscope’s sound—most notably the slightly hip-hop-flavored drum patterns and the wildly fluid and expressive, almost Hendrix-esque guitar-playing—and places them front and center. I can’t help but be reminded of the Folk Implosion’s song “Natural One” in the way that it seamlessly integrates hip-hop into the aesthetic of underground, homemade psychedelic music, and just like “Natural One,” “Scorched Earth” is also an unlikely dance floor banger. I can’t recommend this record highly enough, but I would go even one step further than that and say that Kaleidoscope is a band that you should watch closely. They started out great, yet every new release has been a substantial leap forward from the last. Bands that push the envelope this hard and this consistently don’t come around often, and like a perfect spring day in the South you need to savor it while it’s here.

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