Kliffs is the Berlin-based duo of Mark Bérubé (guitar, keys, voice) and Kristina Koropecki (cello, synths, voice) who met in Montreal. Koropecki was originally a member of Bérubé’s solo project and they have released several albums together prior. A notable offering was 2011’s June in Siberia which was recorded live from the floor of the legendary Montreal studio Hotel2Tango that was founded by the post-rock outfit Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Somewhere down the line, the two must have realized that they have a special chemistry together which led to the formation of their dual project, Kliffs.
On their debut album Temporary Cures, Bérubé and Koropecki musically compliment each other in tandem throughout in a way reminiscent of their past work. On “Let That Be a Fact”, for example, Bérubé’s folky guitar picking and soft vocals are heightened by Koropecki’s work on the cello that wouldn’t be out of place if it came from an album like June in Siberia. However, the unique addition of electrifying synths and frequent duets on songs such as “Stratosphere” render Kliffs a whole new entity.
Although both musicians work well as a collective, they have many shining individual moments throughout this release as well. On the folk ballad “Old Time Cinema Newsreel”, Bérubé soft spoken lyrics meet his tenacity for soothing, finger-picked acoustic passages. Although Koropecki’s eclectic string selections are found throughout this album, they are the center focus of a instrumental track called “Ampersand”.
What’s remarkable about this album is the range of styles found throughout. Beyond an indie folk album, there are elements of baroque pop, synth pop and even lo-fi folk. As they have admitted to on their Bandcamp page, the group cites Sufjan Stevens as a major musical influence. “Soofyan’s” particular brand of baroque pop can be found on tracks such as album opener “The Days of What’s to Come” and his style of male/female soft combined harmonies can be found on the chorus of “Sadness”. As Bérubé and Koropecki sing “everything is temporary, everything is temporary”, I thought they were going to launch into some American state history or biblical parables à la Sufjan Stevens. This is not the case content wise but there are multiple tips of the hat to Stevens on this album. Koropecki’s usage of synths in songs such as “Stratosphere” are reminiscent of synth pop bands such as Chromatics and Grimes. On this particular track, the synths are funky and light. Sort of like an 8-bit video game. However, this completely changes on the song “Outside of Cool, Vol 2” where these synths take a turn in an eerie direction. The haunting synths on this track when combined with the jagged, delay heavy guitar chords remind me of a something that could be off of a recent Depeche Mode album. On the final track, “Tropical Touch” there is a lo fi, buzzy guitar solo by Bérubé that wouldn’t be out of place on an upbeat Neutral Milk Hotel song. Kliffs masterfully combines all these musical influences to form their own unique palate on Temporary Cures.
Even the music video – featuring some shadowy, sporadic dancing – is both creepy and cool
Thematically, the lyrical content of this album preaches hope to the disillusioned and comfort within a state of fluctuation. This particular state of hope is rooted in realism. “The Days of What’s To Come” speaks as a first breathe of air after a traumatic event such as a break up. It doesn’t promise a future where daily life gets better and stays better, it paints a realistic picture that things will get better, but sadness and happiness are always in a state of fluctuation. There will be “loving” and “laughing” in the “days of what’s to come” but there will also be “dying”. Being comfortable in a constantly changing state of life is what is important. On “Sadness”, Bérubé sings that “sadness is only a phone call away”. This is speaking to the fact that changes to our mood and well-being can be a drastic, abrupt occurrence such as some bad news waiting behind the curtain of an iPhone’s “slide to unlock”. It also may be describing how our phones have turned into one of the main focal points that we experience the world through, to which information – both positive and negative – is constantly being spewed out. It is up to us to react to these fluctuations with comfort and a level head.
However, some songs stress indulging in the title’s namesake of “temporary cures” for sadness. “Old Time Cinema Newsreel” is a song about getting angry via indulging one self in memories of a person that might not be around any longer. Bérubé and Koropecki sing about trapping yourself in a movie theater where old memories are queued up on the projector as the main feature. The narrator lashes out in anger that the face he is gazing at “stole my days” and “stole my dreams”. The group maintains that dwelling on memories is a “temporary cure” to a problem and eventually, the usher will ask you to take your rose colored 3D glasses and leave the theater. On the song “Liminal”, an upbeat pop dance song, the group remarks about impulsive behavior in response to an unfortunate situation. As sang on the chorus: “Just for now, let’s keep this liminal”. The term “liminality”, as defined by folklorist Arnold van Gennep and developed by anthropologist Victor Turner refers to a specific state of transition between realms of structural assertions. In this state of “liminality” in life existing between the point of a hardship occurring and the point of getting over it, some impulsiveness could occur. Perhaps you drink a little too much and call up an ex-lover. But hey, don’t worry, let’s keep this liminal. It is also fitting that this track transitions into “Ampersand” with heavy keyboards reminiscent of the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey when Dr. David Bowman is pulled across vast distances of space through a vortex of colored light. Kliffs describes how everyone goes through these transitions and although there is no such thing as a total cure, “temporary cures” can get us through our days and lead to developing comfort in times of fluctuation.
If there is one thing that’s for certain about Temporary Cures, an album with an emphasis on transition and change, it is that Kliffs has put out a debut album that is as stellar as it is diverse. Kliffs is a band to look out for and we can’t wait for what’s next.
ALBUM IS IDEAL FOR: Sipping at a cup of coffee on a winter weekend morning in a cozy sweater while gazing out a frosted window and ruminating about life. Maybe the fireplace is on or “10 HOUR FIRE COMPILATION WOOD BURNING POP EFFECT (HD) (4K)” is streaming off of YouTube.
THE SONG WE HAVE STUCK IN OUR HEADS: Stratosphere
THE SONG WE CAN’T HELP BUT DANCE TO: Liminal
MY MOM’S FAVORITE SONG: Old Time Cinema Newsreel
SONG FOR A DAVID LYNCH STYLE HORROR MOVIE: Outside of Cool, Vol 2.
THE SONG TO INSPIRE SUFJAN STEVENS TO WRITE AN ALBUM ABOUT THE PROVINCE OF QUEBEC: The Days of What’s to Come