CD Reviews

KILIKILI: Agency

Agency is the new album project by Kilikili, a decidedly different group of songs best classified as alt-jazz from the creative mind of singer/guitar/pianist Lexi Pulido. The eight tracks, available online via download codes, are an intriguing mix of spoken word, smooth jazz grooves with scat-sung hooks, and interesting lyrics that border at times on free verse. Pulido has something to say, and while not all of it works, it has some distinctly arresting moments.

Pulido has an interesting vocal presence that permeates the songs here, sometimes soaring in wonderful unison with the instruments, while at others rendering an almost off-hand recitation of poetic lyrics that bounce from topic to topic. The combo behind her solidifies the musical explorations: Julien Cantelm (drums), Harley Magsino (drums), Grant Fisher (electric guitar), and most notably Sam Pratt (tenor sax).

“Done Done It” leads off, rumbling in on energetic drum work from Cantelm and chopping chords from Fisher, laying the groundwork for some spoken words from Pulido about, ostensibly, pulling the plug on a relationship (with Pulido’s verses there can be various interpretations). “And I get so dizzy with the up and down./ It’s a pity. It’s a pit. It’s a pretty pitiful pit.” As with the tracks that follow, the band seems to be along for the ride, and when she floats into a melodious bridge, there is tasty interplay between her voice and Pratt’s horn, before getting back to business with the verses. The poetry in “Hansel and Gretel” touches on self-image, directed to a lover, with lines about sugar, puffer fish, and Ritalin. The references to stuffing her can be read a number of ways, but the playfulness is reinforced by her vocal.

“Kilikili” is about introspection, in between verses like “I don’t even like love songs/ There’s plenty of other forces in the world to sing about,” Pulido and Prat weave some soaring flights. The verses take on doubt as a consequence of, variously, pure chance, cancer, medicine, and even scantron testing or other life experiences—not lightweight stuff. On “Savior Ambition” the target is more clear: the objectification of women by society’s stacked deck against their gender, where too often the decision is limited to “Stay at home with the babies” or “Or be hysterical/ Trouble with the righteously clerical./ Raunch your way in like a robber claiming her own goodies.” The tune is the set highlight, flying late in the track with unison scatting and Pratt’s best solo.

Pulido’s seeming answer to “Savior’ arrives with “Fadtashtik,” and indictment of sexual hipsters; she makes it clear that you may think she wants you, but being the latest fad doesn’t get you in the door; like many other tracks there are tasty instrumental/vocal touches as it fades. “Free Trade” is more conventionally tuneful than most of the music here, and it gives Pulido a chance to get introspective about her romantic adventures. “I’m a queen, I’m a night owl./ I will hunt down any piece of meat I like.” Those who enjoy adventurous jazz vocals will enjoy Kilikili’s Agency.

Go to https://kilikili.bandcamp.com/ to purchase the album online.

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