A Breath of Fresh Air: Kings Kaleidoscope’s The Beauty Between
Views 30 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 10 - 4 - 2017 | By: Tanner Roberts
Kings Kaleidoscope, best known for their skillful blending of orchestral instrumentation and complex, hard-hitting lyrics, strides forth in a bold new direction with their latest release, The Beauty Between. Branded as a mixtape rather than an album, the collection breaks from the band’s established sound, substituting the reverb-heavy, indie-pop feel for hip-hop instrumentation, smooth R&B-style vocals, and a host of guest appearances. While certainly a change from their modus operandi, the album is still recognizably a Kings Kaleidoscope record.
Instrumentation is at the forefront of this album. From the Chance the Rapper-esque flow of “Safe Retreat” to the bubbly synth-pop of “Rain,” Kings Kaleidoscope has put work into embracing their new sound. Rather than bending hip-hop to suit their style, the band has followed the trappings of the genre, with the end result of tracks firmly entrenched in conventions. And yet, despite being well within the limits of traditional hip hop and R&B, the album is full of absolute jams. The band experiments with everything from funky bass on the title track, to clever use of syncopation, to some effective major fourths, and one excellent key-change in “Rain.” And of course, no Kings Kaleidoscope album would be complete without a horn ensemble on at least half of the tracks.
Make no mistake: The Beauty Between is definitely a Kings Kaleidoscope album. The band retains their charismatic feel, even as they stride into a new genre. The orchestra may have been exchange for a drumming machine and a synth pad, but there’s still that spark that makes the album recognizable.
Singer-songwriter Chad Gardner again brings heartfelt lyrics to the table. The strength of Kings Kaleidoscope has always been in pensive, hard-hitting lines, and The Beauty Between is no different. The band isn’t afraid to deal with tough themes: “Sticks and Stones” addresses the issues of faux Christianity and flawed leaders in the church, while “Playing With Fire” pulls no punches in dealing with the realities of racism and white privilege. The latter track includes a genuinely haunting refrain from guest artist Propaganda, who sardonically urges the listener to “close your browser.” And there’s more: “Sometimes Phoenix” deals with the struggles of being faithful to God. Even the short interlude “Does It Feel Like Real Love Yet?” digs deep, criticizing modern Christian morality and the way it can censor genuine expression.
Propaganda isn’t the only featured artist: Andy Mineo, Derek Minor, and Braille are among others that make appearances. Although the guest hooks are generally well-executed, the songs are so lyrically brilliant that they sometimes consign the featured artist to the backdrop.
With The Beauty Between, Kings Kaleidoscope has proven that they can bring their sound to a different genre, as thoughtful lyrics and solid instrumentation combine to create a record that feels cohesive, fresh, and wholly new.