Kimbra the Mystic
Despite this belief, it’s hard to imagine Kimbra as someone who can easily sit still. Having claimed her idiosyncratic nook as the emotive siren in Gotye’s 2011 smash “Somebody That I Used To Know,” the New Zealand pop anomaly has gone on to prove that she is more than just a feature, but an all around powerhouse on her own terms. Her sophomore LP The Golden Echo cemented it—the producer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist makes daring pop music that is interesting, intricate, often delicate, and always hypnotizing in its sheer scope.
With a new raw image and a sound that channels focused introspection rather than imagination, however, Kimbra is reinventing herself by stripping it down. “It all comes down to feeling like I want to explore something I haven’t before,” she says of the stark sonic and visual shift. “And where is the most challenging and uncomfortable place I could sit in my career right now? It’s here. It’s stripping down the makeup.”
Like any great creative, though, Kimbra is weary of the ordinary. She further describes her practice of a daily centering prayer, which consists of twenty minutes of silence and stillness while thinking of a one word mantra that anchors you throughout the practice—as simple as it gets, she says, “But the simplicity itself is what makes it so god damn hard.” Making this new record Primal Heart, however, gave Kimbra a new sense of simplicity’s stickiness. “I’m really wanting to connect with people in a very personal way, and in order to do that, you have to strip away some of the density sometimes.”
Part of this more grounded nature comes from recently moving to New York City. “I live in Manhattan now—I walk out every day onto the street, and reality is right there,” she says of the inner confrontation that often comes with being an NYC transplant. She recently attended her first protest in the city and says that the new music is partly inspired by this sense of urgency, and by being around the new unknown and struggling to find a way to relate. “I feel like I’ve grown into my womanhood, and I have a newfound sense of maturity and focus, which I think has come from living in New York but also having got that excitement off my chest on The Golden Echo.”
Kimbra is not a rebellious artist, she assures me. “But I do believe in shutting out the noise and really tuning into—What am I excited about right now? What am I curious about right now? What makes me want to write and perform music?” An inundation of noise often makes silence more vivid. Here, Kimbra has relished in this sought-after state of stillness, and in doing so, has stumbled upon revelatory brilliance.
Despite a shift towards the primal, there’s still ethereal magic in what Kimbra does. On stage, you’ll often hear her using a vocoder, her vocals inflected with a soulful yet bionic sheen. Her live shows are a fervent culmination of drum machines, beat looping and carefully placed sound effects in a jaw-dropping array of live composition. Behind it all is Kimbra herself, and given the fact that she built her very own studio to create Primal Heart, it’s no surprise that Kimbra is a self-proclaimed control freak. Her standards are high, it seems, as she describes her detailed process:
“When that stab comes in on the fourth verse, that might be a moment that people are just dying waiting for, and it might be when my hand moves like this on that stab, and that is a visceral emotion that people feel […] They’re all moving parts. So is that being a control freak, or is it just knowing how to fit the puzzle pieces together to create a very physical experience for people?”
I was a bit taken aback by her unapologetic confidence in her craft, but there’s a reason Kimbra is constantly at the top of her game. She has an unmatched sense of agency in everything she does, and would make a kickass life coach.
Remember as kids when we used to make “potions” out of mud and sticks? When the mere inkling of an idea was enough to make us throw caution to the wind and explore it further? This is exactly what Kimbra does when she creates, and with a refined sensibility of what works not only for herself, but for her audience, too. Her ingredients are inspired and her methods are meticulous, producing an intoxicating sonic potion strong enough to make just about anyone a believer in the metaphysical.
Primal Heart is available April 20.