Between 2008 and 2010, Justin Kline released two fantastic power pop EPs.  Two songs from his second release, ‘Triangle’, were originally intended to appear on a full length album, but disaster struck… Kline’s studio was broken into, resulting in the theft of various tapes.  Not to be deterred, he took a couple of demos and paired them with two finished recordings and released ‘Triangle’ as a stopgap.

Many would have predicted Kline’s next move would be to record his first full length, but at the beginning of 2012 he returned with yet another EP release.  Third time out, instead of treading a familiar path, Kline is fronting a band and has moved on from the pure power pop of his past works.  Origami Hologram still features Kline’s high-pitched vocal at the core of their sound, but the shiny, multi layered pop of his previous EPs has moved aside in favour of some rather fuzzy rock backdrops.  Whereas previously influences from Jellyfish and ELO were very much obvious, for Origami Hologram, Kline chooses to explore the kind of sounds one may find on various releases by The Posies or The Wannadies in their harder musical guises.  In terms of career shift, the difference isn’t as vast, for example, as the distinct polar opposites of Million Dead and their one-time frontman Frank Turner’s solo career.  For this band, the poppy hooks are still (mostly) present and correct as is Kline’s previous sense of style – it’s just that the more obvious melodies are obscured by layers of slight distortion and a fair amount of overdrive.

The title track begins with a piercing piece of distorted guitar, before the band crash into a simple piece of rock which features as many features from early 80s post punk and new wave as it does from either the power pop or alternative rock fields.  To be honest, the music itself isn’t always that special at first: the drums pound in a fashion which is often reminiscent of something about to break into the “Munsters” theme, while the guitars continue on their merry path of attempting to mask the melodies.  It’s not until the chorus kicks in things actually start to fall into place.  Despite a semi-chaotic sound, Kline’s gift for a melodic hook manages to shine through, hinting at something which potentially sounded better before the layers of guitars took over.  Similarly, ‘Cat Fight’ brings little enjoyment on the first few listens.  The dominant guitars really hamper the vocals on this track.  Being rather empty and repetitive, it’s not Kline’s best composition, but it comes with the kind of riff that potentially has a lot of energy.  On its own, that’s not quite enough, but just as you’re just about to write it off, with its parting shot – comprising a bunch of “na na’s” – Kline knows he can reel you in.  You might be fighting it, but he’s going to get you eventually.

On the more accessible side, ‘Orange Tree’ and ‘Ghost Horse’ offer more than enough musical thrills to make this release worth adding to your collection.  The bouncy ‘Orange Tree’ is a particular highlight, showcasing some great fuzzy bass throughout.  That bass has sharp guitar chords as a musical counterpart, and while basic, everything fits well.  The end result is a piece of music which sounds not unlike Brendan Benson in an aggressive mood; overall, a style which fits Kline’s vocal style much better than some of Origami Holograms other arrangements.  ‘Ghost Horse’ is rhythmically sharp in an almost new wave style, once again.  The riffs are strong, the chorus and harmonies stronger.  Of the four tracks presented here, this owes far more to Kline’s solo outings, as the chorus and melodies are just so much more obvious, even from the off.  At just over three minutes, it’s in and out with absolutely no padding, with everyone sounding pretty tight.   “Is that all right?” asks a voice at the end of the take, as if the band slyly realise this track is their shining moment on this first release…

If you’re familiar with Kline’s poppier releases, this debut by Origami Hologram may not strike a chord with you at first, but eventually ‘Ghost Horse’ and ‘Orange Tree’ should win you over at the very least. While in the long term, you may not choose to pull this from your collection of mp3s perhaps as often as Kline’s wonderful ‘Six Songs’ debut, it still has plenty of merit.  And since it’s also available for free via the widget below, you’d all be fools to miss out.  Just make sure you check out Justin Kline’s solo work too.

February 2012