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Portland Shoegazers Kallai Release Gloomy, Reverb-Drenched Self-Titled Debut EP

Level blame on fad or syndrome
She can’t face her darkest fears
You’ll find joy and a new home
They can dig for 300 years

The name Kallai (pronounced call-eye) is a delightful illustration of how a single word can carry a bouquet of meanings, each one a delicate petal in the flower of language. In Biblical Hebrew, Kallai can mean “light,” “resting by fire,” or “my voice”—each meaning as poetic as the next. It’s like having a name that’s a multi-course meal for the soul.

The etymology of Kallai traces back to the verb “qala,” which intriguingly means “to be lightly esteemed” or “to roast.” Now, being lightly esteemed might sound like an invitation to a life of light-hearted frolic, but it also suggests a certain swiftness and agility, a lightness of being, if you will. And roasting? Well, that could mean either being well-prepared like a fine meal or perhaps being the subject of some good-natured ribbing. Either way, it’s a name with a delightful duality—light and swift, yet also capable of bearing the heat.

Interestingly, Kallai is also the name of a Portland-based shoegaze band who have just released their self-titled debut EP. This band celebrates the sound of the timeless, the places that never were, and the futures that may never be. Imagine waves of reverb-soaked guitars breaking and giving way to a synthesized haze, suspended over a verge of melodic bass lines and flowing rhythms. Their songs weave tales of melancholy and hope, blending sentimentality with a touch of sardonic humor, dreamlike but palpably real, and always emotionally true.

Kallai explores themes ranging from the fallout of past relationships to the challenges of embracing new opportunities after trauma. With introspective lyrics combined with a driving mix of shoegaze, post-punk, and alt-rock influences, Kallai resonates with both emotion and honesty. Their debut EP invites listeners to a sonic feast, where every track offers a new flavor of introspection and existential musing. So, the next time you ponder the intricacies of names and meanings, let Kallai remind you that there’s always more beneath the surface, just waiting to be discovered.

We meet a woman who firmly rejects superficial affection and control in Always/Never. Imagine someone looking you straight in the eyes with the intensity of a laser beam, making it clear that her heart and life are not prizes to be won. She’s a fortress of independence, leaving no room for misguided suitors who think they can control her. It’s like trying to leash a tornado—good luck with that!

Next, we wander through a scene of intimacy and vulnerability in Palisades. Picture this: the leaves are falling, there’s a chill in the air, and the speaker is gently coaxing their partner to lower their guard and share their deepest thoughts. They stroll through a forest, exchanging heartfelt confessions. It’s a tender moment where love blooms, and the speaker offers their whole heart, urging their partner to hold on tight. It’s as if the forest itself is rooting for them.

In Dig, we dive into the complex world of familial obedience and the struggle to break free from inherited fears. The speaker respects their parents but highlights their inability to face their deepest fears, leading to their own downfall. Meanwhile, the speaker rejects this legacy of fear and blame, choosing instead to carve out a path of freedom and happiness. It’s a call to break those cycles, folks—because who wants to dig for 300 years and still end up small, scared, and alone?

Lastly, we drift into Another World, a moment of introspection and connection in a quiet, dark place. The speaker sees a familiar face through the mist, and their eyes meet, revealing a profound connection that transcends worlds. They reflect on potential realities and lost first experiences that never came to be, haunted by ethereal beings that only rest in dreams. It’s a blend of reality and the unreal, a poetic dance between what is and what might have been. It’s like meeting an old friend in a dream and realizing they’re part of a world that exists only in the twilight between sleep and wakefulness.

In each of these lyrical landscapes, we find ourselves contemplating love, independence, vulnerability, familial bonds, and the ethereal connections that define our existence. So, take a moment to reflect on these themes, perhaps with a smile, and remember that life, much like these songs, is a beautiful mix of the real and the surreal.

“The EP is a snapshot of our first nine months together,” says vocalist Cate Hukle of their self-title release. “The songs  started as separate demos that David and I brought in which changed as we worked out how to play them together. By the end of that time, though, we had built a new way of writing together in a  collaborative process where we aren’t trying to define boundaries around what kind of band we are going to be.”

Kallai emerged in the summer of 2023, formed by members of Trance to the Sun, Luscious Apparatus, and Lost Echoes. This collaboration breathes new life into the post-punk, shoegaze, and doom genres, drawing inspiration from these scenes while also pushing their boundaries. Kallai’s evolving perspective seeks to create music that unfolds and resonates through time, blending the nostalgic with the innovative.

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Alice Teeple

Alice Teeple is a photographer, multidisciplinary artist, and writer. She is not in Tin Machine.

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