kuroma - paris EPA couple weeks ago, a friend and I went to see Jarvis Cocker play at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. The opener was Kuroma, a name that neither my friend nor I recognized. In deciding whether or not we wanted to arrive early enough in time to see them, we searched the Internet low and high, trying to find some trace of this artist. No MySpace page. No official site. No MP3s on Hype Machine. Did this artist really exist? Not knowing what we would be in for, and more interested in fun times, we arrived late at the show and didn’t see Kuroma. Lo and behold, a mere two days later, I received an e-mail about the one and only Kuroma.

Kuroma, as I discovered, is the side project of Hank Sullivant, founder of the Whigs, a band of I can’t claim to be particularly knowledgeable about. He left the band two years ago, and finally has something to show for it: the Paris EP. (Although it’s hard to say if this is much of a showing, as of right now it’s only available directly through him, and he doesn’t have a website – however, I’m told this will change soon.)

Where hard rock meets glam rock meets psych meets pop: this is where Kuroma’s Paris EP lies. It opens with “Searching for a Sheep,” a direct opposition of two of those styles in one song. It begins with fast piano, steady like a train, and heavily processed vocals, singing something about getting out of town and putting money down. It’s aggressive and reverberant, but contrasts that with soft piano interludes at the beginning, middle and end.

Sullivant is particularly fond of such juxtapositions – “I Was a Rat” features a similar dynamic, unfurling as crunchy, twinkly pop, then dance, then relaxing into piano before switching tracks into a second half almost entirely dedicated to riffing.

But while Paris has its flashy tendencies, it can be just as earthy. “Alexander Martin” is perky and light strummed rock that – while I am loathed to make this comparison – immediately reminded me of Led Zeppelin’s “That’s The Way.”

Kuroma, “Alexander Martin” (download)

Paris’ biggest downside is that it feels a little jumpy, and can so easily be labeled “retro.” One wonders if he took that long gap between starting his solo project and recording the songs to just listen to all his old records. The EP is definitely ambitious, and while it might be advisable, from a critical standpoint, to suggest he pick something and stick with it, it’s also interesting to see where his ambitions lie – and to know that he at least has them.

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