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White Hinterland: Kairos (Dead Oceans) 

Kairos, the second album from White Hinterland, is a stripped-down, atmospheric record with up-front, bright vocals.

For vocalist Casey Dienel and producer/multi-instrumentalist Shawn Creeden, it's an effective combination, and ultimately a bold one, for the fact that most like-minded acts bury the vocals.

Musically, Kairos makes much out of the slow, drip-drip beat of trip-hop and a light touch of some Aphex Twin-like skittery percussion. Vocally, it's a showcase sort of an album: Dienel's singing is full and commanding.

The band's move from the East Coast to Portland, Ore., had Dienel and Creeden working without a piano, which ultimately became a creative leap as White Hinterland turned to an array of looping sounds.

On "Moon Jam," Dienel sings of the disorientation of self-doubt, following "I cannot control myself" with "I am afraid of so many things." It's a theme that weaves in perfectly with the music's lean ambience of slinky beats, deep bass and slow, insistent grooves.

Kairos' 10 songs span 41 minutes, with a consistency that suggests a somewhat conservative approach to recording. But it's a control that makes the album's unexpected moments that much stronger: the bouncy shift midway through "Bow and Arrow," the sing-songy lilt of "Amsterdam" and the R&B flourish that Dienel adds when she sings "forever and ever" on the album's closing track, "Magnolias."

More by Eric Swedlund

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