Multi-instrumentalist producer-songwriters Jen O'Connor and Eric Krans are fearless in their willingness to explore new sound palettes for their intimate brand of art-pop. Throughout their progression from indie-folk, to stomp and clap trance-folk, to "campfire disco" - as Pitchfork described their sophomore release, Wahzu Wahzu - The Parlor continues to experiment with new instrumentation and blend their set of genre and stylistic songwriting influences. Kiku is their first foray into triggered samples and orchestral synth soundscaping.
Kiku is also a deeply personal concept record for The Parlor. Kiku, the Japanese word for chrysanthemum, began blooming in Krans and O'Connor's farmhouse garden immediately following their second miscarriage, and so became a symbol of their grief, despair, resilience and faith. "Kiku grew into something we never anticipated." What started only as vague sounds or plucked songs, grew unexpectedly into a kind of synth-folk chamber-pop. As the couple grieved, they wrote, and as they recorded they felt themselves "reaching out across the plane of the living and the dead where we stumbled upon the tiny hand of the soul we lost. We brought a piece of her, of Kiku, back with us." It was as if Kiku shared her spirit through the creation of her eponymous requiem.
Kiku sounds moodier, gloomier and more anxious than The Parlor's previous music. It also feels simultaneously relaxed and playful in a way that balances the album's heaviness with a showy bloom; an elaborate floral display. It's a serious, and even sometimes sexy indie-pop drama; a confession of two lovers trying over and over again. As the album's final song fades off into the ether, Kiku comes into focus as a diary of one couple's private and lonely struggle with multiple miscarriage, and their determination not to allow the associated stigmas to silence them.