Orange Juice once urged their listeners to “rip it up and start again.” Having spent years under her alias Dee Dee in fuzz-pop outfit Dum Dum Girls, Kristin Welchez realised it was time to start from scratch. Clutching her love of classic 80s pop and 90s R&B, and spurred on by an uninhibited show by Perfume Genius, she wrote 62 songs for her new project Kristin Kontrol. Only ten of those songs made the cut on to X-Communicate, the record that symbolizes Welchez’s musical rebirth, and they’re all glittering examples of often nostalgic pop and disco.
At the beginning, though, it feels as if Welchez is trying to draw Dum Dum Girls fans into her new world by including some comforting and familiar guitar riffs. ‘Show Me’ has flourishes of saxophone and smatterings of tribal percussion that really are a compelling draw, but also lo-fi riffs. ‘White Street’ owes even more to Welchez’s past thanks to the swirling, fuzzy guitar that permeates the song, and particularly the chorus. Nevertheless, its electronic beats and Welchez’s knack for writing a ridiculously catchy chorus plant it firmly in alt-pop territory; the outro even has echoes of Haim. ‘(Don’t) Wannabe’ steps further towards lo-fi rock, but Welchez balances this with ethereal vocal loops and crystalline synths reminiscent of Enya. Elsewhere, ‘Face 2 Face’ is a strangely gothic moment harking back to mid-80s Siouxsie and the Banshees, a curious combination of pop pomp and post-punk riffs that works surprisingly well.
Welchez finally completely breaks free on the title track. Yes, it has an extended outro that features a guitar lick New Order would have grasped at in their prime, but for the most part it’s a glowing example of how to write a powerful pop song. The fast-paced electronic bleeps and beats are repetitive but minimal enough to not grate, allowing Welchez to manoeuvre between hushed tones in the verses and full on diva in the chorus. It’s almost impossible not to sing along to ‘X-Communicate’ after a while. It’s followed by ‘Skin Shed,’ a cosmic roller-coaster between contemporary EDM and classic disco that’s almost like Goldfrapp at their glittering best.
X-Communicate doesn’t always pull off the nostalgia factor, though. ‘Drive the Night’ does a good job of sounding like a missing track from Madonna’s Ray of Light but is also oddly dated as a result. ‘What Is Love’ makes a nice attempt at turning down the lights at first, but when the chorus rolls around and Welchez starts singing “What is love/ Did I ever know” over a mid-tempo 80s power ballad melody, it all gets a bit cheesy. Despite attempts at a powerful vocal performance, ‘Going Thru the Motions’ sounds flatter and less emotionally wrought than it probably should considering the subject matter.
Welchez’s debut under the Kristin Kontrol moniker doesn’t completely excommunicate her past though, when it does, it’s often an absorbing pop record. It may have a few missteps here and there, but X-Communicate is a solid foundation for Kristin’s future endeavours.