Kllo: Modern Maturity

On Backwater, the young Australian cousins in Kllo go for an adult swim

Melbourne’s Kllo makes music for lost souls, sounds imbued with muted colors, intimate vocals and languid rhythms. The duo—singer, lyricist and guitarist Chloe Kaul and keyboard player, percussionist and producer Simon Lam—favors quiet intensity, allowing the songs to develop their own haunting presence. On debut album Backwater (Ghostly International), elements of funk, R&B, pop, U.K. garage and 2-step drift through the mix, often in unexpected combinations.

“We’ll include any genre we’re feeling at the time,” says Lam. “Whatever we throw at a track, even if it’s from left field, always sounds like us.”

Kaul and Lam are first cousins. They were working separately on their own projects when their mothers suggested they collaborate. “Our mums have a lot of crazy ideas,” says Kaul. “This one was probably one of the best they’ve come up with.”

Lam studied jazz in music school and was involved in ambient pop projects, producing occasional dance tracks. Kaul had extreme stage fright, but it didn’t stop her from writing songs and playing them for friends and family. When they began discussing their aspirations, they found they had much in common.

Working in Lam’s bungalow studio, they put together two EPs, Cusp in 2014 and Well Worn in 2016. Kaul’s comforting vocals and Lam’s brooding, multilayered soundscapes struck a chord. Millions of streams on social media made them famous, although their faces remained relatively unknown. “It’s funny sitting in a café when they play our music,” says Lam. “No one knows it’s us, sitting right there. It’s kind of neat.”

Backwater will change all that. It’s garnering lots of excitement, and the road beckons, but first a hiatus is in order. “I’m taking a break right now, the first in years,” says Lam. “I want the next thing we do to be different, so I’m trying to interrupt the flow at the moment.”

j. poet