Our memories are built on shifting sands. They’re not images in our mind conjured by time-travelling back to the original events we’re remembering. We rarely recall an event direct from the source. More often than not, our brains remember instead the last time we remembered it. And each time it’s filtered from a new perspective, a fresh evaluation, our very identity and sense of self continually shifting and being remade.
This sense of memory, identity and internal time soaks the exceptional five-track sophomore EP from KAHLLA in a swirling tide of dense meaning.
“I thought the past was set in stone,” Freya Volk said back in March in an ‘In Conversation With…’ feature for Bitter Sweet Symphonies. “But nothing ever really is.”
Released on the 16th of July, 2021, the songs on Time were all recorded in the summer of 2020, after we’d all emerged from the first lockdown, blinking and grappling with a harsh new reality. Each one connects effortlessly to the next in theme and sound, with dreamy soundscapes full of delicate piano, intricate beats and drum grooves, and Volk’s crystalline layered vocals.
The EP plays out like a series of flashbacks, like five short episodes of a soft-focus drama. There’s a narrative arc across the songs that’s thrilling. And through it all, the sense of untrustworthy memories shifting and tilting, of not ever being sure of what’s truly real and reliable as she looks back on events.
Opener ‘Anything At All’ sees Volk lying on her bed, doom-scrolling on her phone, endless, faceless days slowly passing by. It sets the scene for the EP perfectly, a sense of time unwinding on itself, losing its meaning. “The days pass by, I don’t remember them” goes a beautiful repeating chorus.
‘Participant’ sees minimalist pianos and anthemic drums in a beautiful song about the emotional torment and exhaustion of not wanting to be pulled too close to another person’s demons. It contains a wonderful example of Volk’s ability to conjure images that linger in the mind: “But when I’m home it never feels like it. Just a house with some people breathing in it.”
The EP is full of them.
‘Hold On To Happy’ is a gut-wrenchingly beautiful song about grief, it remembers a loved one from a conversational point of view whilst also imagining what another day together could be like, with a video created from submissions from fans and strangers who have also experienced loss. Volk is overwhelmed by painful memories that crash over her like a tidal wave, but holds firmly on to the ones that are happier. Here, memory is something that can be controlled and taken charge of.
‘Thread,’ with its beautifully layered keys and vocals, sees Volk unravelling from a relationship in which she’s being forced to change, to bend, to become a watered-down version of herself as she becomes entwined and enmeshed with another person. But when the relationship unravels and comes undone, who are you then, minus the other?
“When the ends come loose and the knot’s undone, I fear the truth. What is me without you?”
The EP ends with ‘Rearview Mirror,’ where the theme of the EP is tackled head on. As Volk battles with learning to trust again after someone has hurt her badly, tainted memories are playing a “trick of the light” and the truth is a “hard sell”.
“The past I can remember. But I can never know it well.”
Time is out now – available to Stream/Purchase here.
Photo Credit: Emily Talbot