On her first four records, Dienel projected her fears and fantasies onto imaginary characters, role play, and lush atmospherics. If Kairos was a work of atmosphere, then Baby sits at the opposite end of that spectrum. Baby is about song craft. It is forceful, rooted in the physicality of the voice, percussion and piano, and it is about getting straight to the point. It is the past three years of her life distilled into song: joy, heartbreak, frustration, longing, disappointment, anger, and loss accumulated, poured out and reborn in this new, unflinching release.
On Kairos, we find White Hinterland exploring the edges of minimal pop, accomplishing a delicate but lively seduction through deep, patient bass throbs, prismatic synth textures, and direct, intimate songs sung with an empowered gravitas. Here Casey Dienel tailors the acrobatics of her former songwriting into a slender focus, folding it into deeper grooves. Beneath the baroque arrangements and intellectual lean of Dienel’s previous musical efforts was a sexiness that Kairos exposes, showing the artist for what she is: powerful and comfortable in her own skin, with a glittery voice weaned on pop R&B. With a sound so modern, so contemporary, Kairos fixes White Hinterland’s gaze firmly on the future. Using just one mic, electronics, programming and an arsenal of percussion and instruments, the minimal, washy “Art & B” of Kairos was born. Dienel compared making Kairos to swimming in a cave, trusting only the instinct to just keep swimming. This image perfectly embodies the enchanting and blue-lit atmosphere of the album. Sean Michaels of Said the Gramophone captured it well, after he witnessed a White Hinterland performance where they performed the bulk of Kairos live: “The jazz has been taken out, simply removed. And what is left is so, so, so much space; so much space in which she and Shawn add dark beats, deep bass, dubstep stuff. And she sings in looped curlicues, ivies and gold rings, sampling and re-sampling. They were all new songs and they were utterly astonishing. Here are some names of things it was & wasn't merely: the dirty projectors, the xx, burial, tune-yards, school of seven bells, the neptunes, thom yorke, arthur russell, giovanni pierluigi da palestrina. Any half-samples so far do it no credit at all. What a rediscovery.”
White Hinterland's new EP is a highly ambitious recording containing five songs all sung in French, and it expands upon the wide palette of musical ideas heard on White Hinterland’s debut, Phylatctery Factory. Featuring two original songs, plus covers of songs made famous by Serge Gainsbourg, Brigitte Fontaine and Francoise Hardy, White Hinterland feels right at home amid the musical tradition laid out by these legends. Like some groovy, strange and psychedelic artifact clamored about by crate-digging record collectors, Luniculaire is more than just an EP. It is a testament to White Hinterland’s deep musical vision and a taste of the greatness to come.
Whereas 2006’s Wind-Up Canary was short stories, little Salinger vignettes, Phylactery Factory is filled with dreams, memories, warnings. Dienel’s voice is more hidden, crouching amid swish, drone and the wildflower jazz of her friends - and this second LP is released under a new moniker. It’s an album full of reminders. Reminders of the likes of Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, John Cage, Alice Coltrane, M. Ward. Reminders of winter. But mostly reminders to oneself. This is what a phylactery is: the tefillin worn by devout Jews upon head and arm; a prayer in a box and then knotted into place; the reminder of a one and only.