I can’t help but think that if I was 18 when I had heard What Safe Means, the second EP by Singapore based Kaji, then it would have become one of my favourite records. There’s a definite youthfulness to their post-hardcore/emo sound, full of honesty and emotion, but this is balanced by a sense of musical maturity. It might not be ground-breaking or revolutionary, but these are over-rated concepts. Instead, What Safe Means is 27 minutes of raw, heart-felt modern post-hardcore, blending beauty and harshness to produce an engaging, varied, and thoroughly interesting listen.
There’s no mistaking that Kaji are happy to embrace the more caustic and intense ends of the post-hardcore spectrum. Opener “Lizzie Samuels” wastes no time, beginning the record with pounding drums, heavy bass, inventive guitar lines, and some great vocals. It’s a pretty thrilling start, and the way the song shifts tempos, intensity, and emphasis sets the tone for much of what follows. What Safe Means rarely stays still for long, as the band constantly keep their songs moving forwards, full of ideas and talent. Following track “King Lear” is probably my favourite, featuring some intense double bass drum work, powerful guitar leads that follow the vocals, and a dizzying atmosphere that many similar bands strive for, but fall short of. That opening bass sound is nasty!
I’ve little doubt that some will find the clean vocals on songs like “Nina & The Shark” and “Not For Want Of Trying” to be that too sincere and heart-on-your-sleeve, but such moments are also one of the strengths of the EP (and it has to be said, the lyrics are pretty awesome at points). The contrast between such moments and the equally honest heavy parts helps keep the record interesting, and shows that Kaji are well versed in this genre, and all the varied parts that make the best records so worthwhile. Hell, “Fault Lines” is the kind of song that, with the right bit of luck and exposure, could see a band become pretty huge. Well, as huge as underground post-hardcore can be, but the point still stands.
Which leads on to another point of praise: the production and recording quality. Considering that this is a thoroughly DIY record, having been recorded, mixed, and produced in the band member’s homes, it sounds fantastic. The record is loud, clear, and with just the right amount of grit when required.
What Safe Means isn’t quite perfect – there’s a few rough edges that experience will help smooth off. But on the whole, it is a very exciting, engaging EP, and I look forward to seeing what the band do next.
What Safe Means can be streamed and downloaded via Bandcamp. CD copies can be purchased from the band’s shows.