Cool Air is the first release from LA-based singer-songwriter and composer Kat Niles. The three-song EP moves through sprawling landscapes and half-remembered fever dreams to the depths of the self. Her voice is deft and potent, with an elastic range uncommon for its warmth and darkness. The arrangements feel wild and organic, grown around imagistic lyrics that reflect on love, longing, and existential dread. The result is a collection of cinematic, spacious songs that traverse deserts and cities, seasons and cycles, light and shadow, wine-sodden loneliness and the desire to find peace in solitude. The song structures are expansive and experimental without compromising a subtle pop sensibility. Niles’s work draws inspiration from great modern songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Judee Sill, Mitski, Joanna Newsom, Linda Perhacs, Fiona Apple, and Townes Van Zandt — and is also informed by diverse musical-historical sources like Hildegard Von Bingen, impressionist composers, Claude Debussy, and medieval choral motets. Her lyrics and imagery follow the tradition of authors such as Virginia Woolf, Clarice Lispector, and Mikhail Bulgakov. “Cool Air” was written in New York, arranged in Massachusetts, and recorded in LA by sound engineer and songwriter Maximillian Sink. It was mastered by Brett Lambert at The Kitchen (Andrew Bird, Cassandra Jenkins). It was co-produced by Juno Roome and features performances from Jordan Lee (violin), Vivian Hu (cello), Max Sink (bass), Andrea Nappi (flute), and Paul Mason (drums).
Lead single “Oblivion” drives the listener down a desert highway beneath a full moon. Niles’s haunting guitar breaks through the propulsive rhythm like flashes of epiphany. “Fledgling Season” is a meditation on the reckless abundance of spring — the profusion of life and mortality summed up in the image of a baby pigeon body on a Brooklyn sidewalk. A tumult of strings and drums crescendos as Niles tries to negotiate with the indifference of nature. Playing with dissonance, a suite-like structure, and religious motifs, the title track completes the EP with a pilgrimage. Swirling choruses composed of Niles’ layered voice beg to merge with “something circulating, in the higher reaches.” Each song is a contest between desire, hope, and fear. The EP leaves its audience with poetry to decipher, earworm melodies, and a set of questions we can’t avoid: How do we make peace with the vast indifference of the world, and in doing so love it more fully? And after all that bargaining, will there be respite?
Going for adds 5/16