Sept. 5, 2018 | Bob Boilen — About a year ago, Ten Flowers, the debut album from Kalbells, came out and brought me a great deal of joy. At the Tiny Desk, the solo project morphed into a full-fledged band, where they debuted the tune “Droolerz.” That song opens with camaraderie – “I want a house / where everybody comes” – and continues with a line that epitomizes the carefree humor of singer Kalmia Traver: “We could play drums and eat lobster at the opera.” The band makes life-affirming music that Kalmia created over the past few years, filled with the triumph of being cancer free. The joie de vivre is palpable.
This isn’t the first time Kalmia has performed a Tiny Desk concert. Her other band, Rubblebucket, brought their circus of contagious fun here more than three years ago. But for Kalbells and for Kalmia, Ten Flowers was about healing through expression, exploring uncharted musical landscapes and finding her voice outside of her tight partnership with Rubblebucket’s Alex Toth. She used a tiny little synthesizer called the Critter & Guitari Pocket Piano to create random patterns that she improvised lyrics over before tearing it apart and pulling it back together, tightening the melody and lyrics. She then was joined by drummer Ian Chang, and though not in the band that came to NPR, he certainly helped shaped the rhythms of these songs. Her own saxophone playing at the Tiny Desk demonstrates the width of her musical palette adding harshness and deep character to these somewhat airy songs, and her talented minimalist band let her shine.
“Craving Art Droplets”
Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kara Frame, Bronson Arcuri; Production Assistants: Catherine Zhang, Téa Mottolese; Photo: Samantha Clark/NPR.