I find it ironic then, that Kiltro’s debut album, Creatures of Habit, was recorded during one of the worst years of my life – because since its release, it’s become one of my all-time favorites.
It started with a song on the radio. In August of 2018, I heard Kiltro’s first single “Ofelia” on Indie 102.3 (which at the time was CPR’s OpenAir), and was blown away. As soon as I got home, I posted about it on Facebook.
Then I just couldn’t stop listening to it. I know I have a soft spot for classical or Spanish style guitar, as it was an influence in what my dad often played himself, or listened to in the house or the car as I grew up. And I grew up in the mostly-white cornfields of Iowa, no less.
But there has always been this black sheep inside me, which craves Latin style music and salsa beats. When I hear the kind of guitar on Kiltro’s debut album, both my inner child and my deepest, truest self wake up and come to life.
I saw Kiltro live for the first time last October in Denver. I knew something was off for me at that show, as although I had told the band's founding member, Chris Bowers-Castillo, I was coming to seem them, I didn’t have the confidence to say hello afterwards. Usually introducing myself to a new band makes me nervous, but not this anxious. I froze up, I just stood there as more and more people said hello to him, and finally I left. I was so embarrassed at myself, shocked even.
After that, Kiltro started recording their album, and things started getting pretty bad for me. Stress from work and things at home, combined with several physical health problems, strained my mental health to a point where I just couldn’t be myself. I couldn’t drink, I couldn’t eat – for months. I stopped going to shows, I stopped photographing music, I lost interest in things, I lost a lot of self-esteem and confidence. I lost 20 pounds.
"Easy come, easy go, take it all from me," Ofelia's refrain, felt like familiar territory.
As I finally emerged from these issues over the past few months, Kiltro’s album release show hung in the future like a finish line, an “I’ve made it,” a potential sigh of relief. And if after this past year I have been like a plant desperate for water, this album was a sudden gift of rain.
I cannot get sick of this album. I think I’m addicted to it. And I don’t want help – I just want more.
“If I Lead” is a gorgeous opening to the album, and a convincing invitation to follow them for the next 40 minutes. It weaves in and out of dissonance and harmony in the same way that life is an interwoven experience of tragedy and joy – which is what makes it so beautiful.
“Curicó” is one of the best songs on the album, hands down. Its energy is infectious; I can’t stop myself from starting to dance a bit wherever I listen to it. (In my car, this is something that happens regularly.) I'm hitting repeat a few too many times on it lately.
Bowers-Castillo sings in this song repeatedly of “the things you just wouldn’t notice,” and it’s the perfect phrase to explain why I love this music so much. It’s in the things you just wouldn’t notice if you weren’t paying attention: the details, the layers, the loops, the echoes, the complexity and depth of the sound that is unparalleled in most music. When I put on good headphones, I feel like I’m falling into a black hole. Listening to Kiltro is like passing the event horizon – once you’ve passed it you can’t come back, or rather, you don't want to. You can’t listen to music the same way again.
But my words simply pale in comparison to you listening to this album, or seeing Kiltro live.
Earlier this year, a feature Westword article summed them up as, “…what the Denver music scene needs: something different.” But in my experience, “different” doesn’t quite capture it.
Within the Denver music scene, Kiltro is something distinct, something significant. Compared to the entire American music scene, Kiltro is something unconventional, innovative, avant-garde. And in the world? Simply something brilliant.
And whenever I listen to Creatures of Habit, I'll forever remember both the joy and the tragedy of this year – and that I persevered, I survived. What a beautiful thing.