Premiere: Kiltro’s “If I Lead” Is a Vibrant Trip into the Fantastical

kiltro © Scott McCormick
kiltro © Scott McCormick
Sonically intricate and visually hypnotic, “If I Lead” by the Chilean-American band Kiltro questions whether we are dreaming or awake.
Stream: “If I Lead” – Kiltro

Do you know that feeling when your body suddenly wakes up but your mind is still in a daze and you’re not sure what’s real and what’s a dream? Or when your body is so tired but your mind won’t sleep so you become absorbed in the randomized life inside your head? When you suddenly lose track of where you are or who you’re with but at the same time the illusion is kind of sweet? 

If I Lead - Kiltro
If I Lead – Kiltro
I woke from a restless sleep
My hands, my feet
Are pulsing electric shivers
Building, broilin’ heat
Spires and bells
And carousels
Of figures that lead you in

Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering the video to “If I Lead”, the latest offering from Denver-based Chilean trio Kiltro. The song is light but textured and it’s vibrantly warm like a sunset but conceptually based around the twinkling of the night time.

“I had written about an anxious character unable to sleep, who imagines a surreal and fantastical night on the town,” frontman Chris Bowers Castillo tells Atwood Magazine. “For the video, we knew we wanted to keep with the theme of escaping tedium or unhappiness through fantasy.”

The album the song’s taken from, Creatures of Habit (released last year), is intended to be a collection of short stories set in Valparaíso, Chile, where Castillo resided and developed a rush of inspiration. In the bohemian port city, he lived in an old mansion and found a job as a tour guide and the writing stemmed from the people he encountered: artists, tourists, poets, drunks etc. 

In “Curicó” dramatic plucks and strums are set behind a scene of ‘down where the moonlight drapes the tips of the leaves/ The things you just wouldn’t notice/ Creatures of darkness haunting out by the reeds/ You’d swear that death was upon us’ while addressing a character named Julia. Closing track “The Drunk” is fast-paced and buoyant, told from the perspective of a man who’s looked upon with stereotypes. ‘You pass me by on the daily/ Well how do you see me?/ A drunk or a deadbeat/ You don’t know the half of it/ My life is amazing’ he informs, the words rolling off the tongue and the music cavorting along. It’s an album that taps into Chilien traditions, while intricately crafting sounds through looping pedals.

“If I Lead” emphasizes the skillful use of guitar work. The plucks are amiably domineering and gently hypnotic and, alongside the video, intensify the notion of being sucked into a dream-like state. Visually it starts with an illuminated projector, a darkened room, and the band performing with their giant shadows behind them. As the video progresses, effects take up the screen: rippled lighting like water, kaleidoscopic stripes, and a dancer swirling amidst smoke. 

Kiltro © 2020
Kiltro © 2020

“We came up with the idea to use an old analog projector as the central motif, which shifted the conversation to film, stories, and “projection,” Castillo explains to Atwood Magazine. “The projector and all of the abstract material the fictional audience watches on screen, became a kind of stand-in for watching, or consuming, in the general sense. I was interested to depict the way in which we project ourselves into stories and imagery as an escape and how we are subsequently changed and defined by that process, because of what that means for our identities, and how we then relate to our reality.”

The same, in a way, can be applied to the song with personal imagination mixing with unclear reality (through the sleepy state) and appealing visions taking over the senses. In the chorus, for example, the protagonist pleads while wrapped in the light of the darkness.

Show me the ways that you talk
And all of the places you walk
If I lead would you follow
Let me at the corners where the light don’t touch
Colors, figures sway
Love, they might lift you away
From the street to what’s under

“The plate, which spins like a clock and is of course also a circle, is like the repetitious cycles, or loops, we find ourselves in,” Castillo continues – referring to a central focus in the video. “It felt like a fitting allusion to the fact that In the midst of this process of “watching” our own lives, of attending to the various features of our daily routine, time is physically passing.”

Videos and music often work in tandem to enhance a narrative. With “If I Lead” the visuals are designed to be watched intently so that we are further drawn into the position of the character. It, like the rest of Creatures of Habit, transports us into another environment- one that is culturally real (musically) and narratively fictionalized.

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Stream: “If I Lead” – Kiltro

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If I lead- Kiltro

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