Thanks to a position in a sidebar in the Spin cover story on MGMT, Hank Sullivant’s Kuroma project is going to end up inextricably linked to that band forever. Granted, Sullivant did do time as MGMT’s touring guitarist when they conquered the world in the summer of 2008, but Kuroma isn’t an MGMT offshoot. He started recording tracks for the project when he left another rising band, one he actually helped start: Athens, Ga., power-pop trio the Whigs.
It probably doesn’t help Kuroma’s individuality prospects that the band’s debut EP, Paris, plays like a middle road between Sullivant’s two former bands. There are traces of the effervescent, sprawling psychedelia of MGMT and the tightly wound pop blasts of the Whigs present on the idea-packed Paris, but the EP sometimes suffers under the weight of its lofty ambitions.
“Searching for a Sheep” opens Paris in a thoroughly schizophrenic manner. It begins as a raucous power-chord rocker before coming to a near-stand-still with a piano ballad, and stopping completely, before repeating the opening’s two halves. It sounds like those two halves were sewn together out of necessity instead of a thematic similarity, but it sets the tone for the rest of Paris, which struggles between being coherent and deftly genre-pilfering and sloppy, aimless and scattershot.
Second track “I Was the Rat” falls mostly in the former category. For much of the song’s six minutes, the pace is ambling, the sonics light and Sullivant’s voice flirts with being an outright Wayne Coyne send-up. The Zeppelin IV-esque “Alexander Martin” is the EP’s strongest cut. It marries its layered acoustic riff to sticky sweet vocals, and has the benefit of sounding old and fresh at the same time.
But when Sullivant devotes himself to the psychedelic side of his tendencies, the album suffers. The lounge music at the Holiday Inn in 1976 vibe of “Paris” hews far too close to the similar falsetto sap-psych that MGMT used to become stars. And not even the as long as a haiku title can save “Beneath the Winds That Lash Neptune’s Blue Skies Falls a Hard Rain of Diamonds” from being a too-long muddled mess that seems like a Girl Talk remix of bits and scraps from Kuroma’s well.
There’s enough good on display during Paris to make a full-length album from Kuroma a hot property. If Sullivant can match the better moments on Paris over the course of an album, the fact that he played in other bands will be a distant memory.