[CD Review] Clue to Kalo, 'Lily Perdida' (Mush)

Better known here than in their native Australia, Mark Mitchell’s project Clue to Kalo are still all too obscure, probably most familiar to folks who follow every release of LA’s Mush Records. Maybe it’s the multilayered complexity of Mitchell’s homemade puzzle pop that keeps more people from penetrating it; Clue to Kalo began as a sample-driven one-man band, and even in the transition to proper instruments and a full touring lineup, things have remained as cluttered as a teenager’s closet.

That’s certainly true of Lily Perdida, a bustling third outing that pairs Mitchell’s and band mate Ellen Carey’s soft-sung vocals with both delicate folk touches and the jangled glitch of electronics, often all at once. Most of the songs function on some weird plane straddling the space between, say, Caribou and Belle & Sebastian, with only a deep-seated sense of hermit-like bookishness uniting things.

Well, that and the album’s concept, which follows the entire life of its title character by dedicating each song to her from a different person’s perspective. We open at birth with “Lull for Dear Life, By the Parents” and soon hear from Lily’s siblings and peers, not to mention characters such as “The Eavesdropper” and “The Confidante.” The elegiac closer, “All’s Made Meaning, By the Chorus,” first strips away the dizzying mechanical parts to just a piano, a nod to the influence Mitchell says Randy Newman had on this record.

More ambitious than both 2003’s nascent Come Here When You Sleepwalk and 2005’s fully blossomed One Way, It’s Every Way, the dense Lily Perdida requires some serious attention to enjoy. For a character-driven concept record, it’s often difficult to make out exact lyrics. In that case, it becomes more reliant on the kaleidoscopic whirling of moods and sounds to lead the way for us.


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