It’s probably safe to say that many of us first fell in love with Kimbra when she was featured on Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.” Call them kindred spirits - both of them embrace the weird side of pop music, the stuff that doesn’t make it to top 40 radio that often. It’s with that spirit that Kimbra continues to put out pop songs that draw from so many sources, her latest example being her upcoming third album Primal Heart. Featuring production from John Congleton, Nelly Furtado, and even Skrillex, the album takes the New Zealand native in different directions from the exuberant sounds of her previous two albums, this time prominently featuring R&B and mid-tempo pop.
Her recent stop at 9:30 Club included nine of the twelve tracks that will be on the new record, and while she slightly dialed back the weird levels (for example, less eye-catchingly colorful outfits in favor of more subdued, cool outfits), the projected visuals and instrumentation retained the spirit of uniqueness that her music videos are known for. Performing in front of two see-through ‘cubes’ that were the backdrop for those wild projections, Kimbra’s setup featured a multitude of synths, MIDI pads and voice manipulators. Songs like “Top of the World,” a recent single from Primal Heart, heavily employed these effects as she twisted away at the plethora of knobs and dials at her disposal to turn her voice into something robotic and unrecognizable. Further stating her case as one of the best multi-instrumentalist pop singers of today, Kimbra showed off her guitar skills on a new track called “Past Love” that received a rousing reception.
While it was disappointing to see energetic tracks like “Miracle” and “Come Into My Head” omitted from the setlist, older cuts like “Settle Down” and “As You Are” made more sense in given that she is leaning towards slower R&B-influenced jams on Primal Heart. Either way, Kimbra’s still got one of the best voices in pop music today, and her eye for captivating visuals is a nice bonus too.
Primal Heart will be released on April 20 through Warner Bros. Records.
Opening for Kimbra was Providence-based band Arc Iris, who brought the same appreciation for theatrics and genre-blending that Kimbra does. Making her stage entrance in a vibrant flowing cape that resembled wings when her arms were extended, Jocie Adams and company utilized complex time signatures that kept people from getting too comfortable with the music they were hearing. There were keytars, people in pig masks, a menacing spoken word portion, and deep blaring synths that could have come out of Hans Zimmer’s score for Inception. It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to draw comparisons to bands like Landlady or Son Lux. Their latest album is 2016’s Moon Saloon through Bella Union.