December 9, 2023

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Krill: Alam No Hris (10th Anniversary Reissue) Album Review

When then-defunct Boston rock trio Krill formed the new band Knot in 2020, singer-bassist Jonah Furman was afforded the space to reflect on what differentiated the two projects. In doing so, he set the record straight on his beloved band after years of misinterpretation as weird, cheese-addled slacker rock. “When I was 20, I thought that making art was an important part of making a better world,” he said. “[Krill] was very much about ethics and morality. One’s moral responsibilities to oneself and to other people, and trying to be in conversation with other ethical art or moral art.” It’s a serious theme for an often playful band: Krill wrote songs about poop and squirrels and peanut butter. But if two rocks with googly eyes made you cry in a movie theater, then hearing a twig have a philosophical conversation with a blade of grass probably will, too.

Krill songs were so emotionally invested and logically overwrought that they became detached, a songwriting style introduced on Alam No Hris, their 2012 debut. Recorded in the band’s Somerville basement over two years and newly remastered by Julian Fader to celebrate its 10th anniversary, Alam No Hris is the sound of a muggy house show spilling over capacity. It’s scuzzy grunge pop tracked live and sprinkled with mistakes (a guitar unplugs during the bridge of “I Am the Cherry,” the metal riff on “Slug” occasionally lags) that capture the thrill of watching Krill in person. There’s personality in the way each member of the original lineup performs here: Furman uses a pitch-shift pedal passed down from his college video art professor to give his bass a rubbery, wobbling effect, like slime being stretched; guitarist Aaron Ratoff strums with a wiry, discordant tone, whether he’s playing chords or picking out melodies; Luke Pyenson drums hard enough to make heads bob, but works in deft fills that lighten the overall sound.

If Krill was a way to knead out ethical quandaries, then Alam No Hris marks the band’s loosest, most ecstatic approach to the subject. Later albums Lucky Leaves and A Distant Fist Unclenching contemplated what we owe to our community, to those we love, and to ourselves; Alam No Hris peers through the ingenuous lens of young adulthood to understand how to be a decent human in the first place. This often takes the form of actions: shaking off problems (“Wet Dog”), admitting first-love butterflies (“Piranha Girl”), and returning acts of tenderness (“Kissipaw”). Furman’s strongest lyrical moments come when he wades into his own mind in a private push for self-improvement. On “Coolant,” he runs in circles trying to determine who, if anyone, he’s beholden to: his parents, his own choices, God, the sun? During “Self-Hate Will Be the Death of Youth Culture,” he laments how misanthropy feeds into conceit, repeating the titular phrase as equal parts declaration and warning. As if he’s nervous and three beers deep at karaoke, Furman’s voice is routinely off-key and anxious, wavering between a mumble and a shout—a performance style he heard legitimized in Neutral Milk Hotel’s “Two-Headed Boy.” The combined effect makes it seem like he’s only just remembering the words at the moment they’re sung. In his hands, what should sound grating or unprofessional becomes urgent and sincere.

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