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Davis, California

Friday, April 19, 2024

Student Sounds: Kalm Dog


Kalm Dog continues to expand in sound, more recently endeavoring to release a freshman EP

There’s a small toy store next to El Burrito, and if you don’t visit for the nostalgia of childhood games, at least attempt their World’s Most Challenging Puzzle display. I spent my Friday night unsuccessfully piecing together nine cardboard squares, but I left with more than a no-regret $13 puzzle purchase; curious as to why the store had moved from its location in West Davis, I inquired the owner as to why he moved. His response — with a nonchalance and confidence many would envy — had an unforeseen depth: “I was tired of being the best kept secret in Davis.”

And frankly, Davis is full of secrets: the delicious Chinese restaurant inside the Chevron on Cowell, those massage chairs on the second floor of the Health and Wellness Center, the folk jam sessions at the Arboretum’s Wyatt Deck and, of course, Davis’ underground music scene.

Recent biotechnology graduate Kris Nguyen is one the music scene’s many faces. His project, Kalm Dog, began only about six months ago but is quickly gaining speed. A project of his own, Nguyen records all of the tracks himself, but recruited friends Kaz Mirblouk (bass) and Daniel Yelsits (drums) for his live performances. Each musician also partakes in other individual projects at both home and in Davis, bringing together a diversity of talent.

But Nguyen does more than self-record his own multi-instrumental tracks; he also mixes and masters them himself. He mentions his particularity over the production of his sound, paying specific attention to the technical aspects during the mastering process. His humble demeanor and clear recognition of his band mates’ talents is an accurate representation of the independent scene he so prominently partakes in.

Nguyen is also a DJ for the student radio station KDVS, an experience which has strongly impacted his development as both a listener and producer of music. He reflects that “there’s no correct way to record and produce music, it’s all a hit or miss,” but more importantly, that “if it sounds good to [him] then [he’ll] stick with it.” His involvement at KDVS has also allowed him opportunities for networking and collaboration.

Many of his tracks are influenced by day-to-day emotions, soaked in an obscurity that stems from these lo-fi recordings, and a lyricism characterized by Nguyen’s “attract[ion] to sounds that bring the feeling of nostalgia.” He also mentions that his mother’s passing has greatly influenced this music, both sound and lyricism providing him an outlet for expression.

As a self-described “garage/dream-pop band,” his music doesn’t get lost in the faded sound that is so characteristic of shoegaze and garage rock. His sound is clean and well produced with no guitar riff going unrecognized (check out track “Norman” to hear this for yourself), but of course, without losing a dreamy, nostalgic sentiment. Nguyen notes that he “take[s] pride in [his] well-polished but lo-fi recordings,” but doesn’t fail to mention their “energetic and loud live shows.”

Kalm Dog continues to expand in sound, but has recently endeavored to release a freshman EP. Expected to release within the next month or so, you can also check out Kalm Dog live at The Morgue on May 21, or at KDVS’ fundraiser, Operation Restore Maximum Freedom XVI, on May 28.

As for the name Kalm Dog? His response was simply, “Well, my name starts with a K.” And frankly, I have no better response than: “Kool stuff, Kris.”

Written by: Ally Overbay – arts@theaggie.org


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