Hush Hush

Photography by Chris Frey / Styling by Annice Kessler

Imagine Midnite Vultures-era Beck using the word ‘panties’ with a straight face. Now imagine him about a foot taller with a six inch beard. Berlin-based Hush Hush (aka Christopher Kline) frenetically writhes atop salacious dirty pop beats on his 2010 release Oh God and his forthcoming 12” Ooze. And he’s not afraid to sing without protection, aka auto-tune.

Though the posturing of Hush Hush is overtly sexual, Kline uses an intuitive approach to build his pop music. “It’s just part of the form of that kind of music that makes sense. When I’m writing songs, the lyrics just come naturally. One thing I like about hip-hop and country music is that they’re more well rounded for a lifestyle that includes sadness and violence and humor.”

Hush Hush is the most recent iteration of a man with many monikers: Christopher Kline is the government name of the artist who also performs under the names Snakebraid and Night Music and, until recently, the image of an upside down cross. Working across genres and in a self-induced state of semi-anonymity plays an integral role in Kline’s broader practice as a musician and visual artist.  “I was on this long-term plan to have all of these aliases, but it wasn’t sustainable,” Kline explains, “Hush Hush for me is something that I slip in and out of. Hush Hush is designed conceptually as a pop star, as something that functions within the music world.”

Kline is a relative newcomer to the world of computer-based pop music and only began to make music digitally in preparation for his fall 2010 European tour with Yeasayer. “When I started playing, I didn’t know how to use MIDI or even how to record on a computer,” Kline recalls. Kline then took his original material and began to omit the soul flourishes in favor of more booty bass.

One immediately hears the influence of contemporary American hip-hop and R&B in songs like “Ooze”, a paean to anal sex and ‘Michael Jordan shoes’. Thick beats and scratchy synth loops reminiscent of Lil’ Jon elevate Kline’s monotone vocals to Kiis FM territory, while retaining a tongue in cheek lyrical sensibility that even Lightnin’ Hopkins or Speckled Red would be proud of. And his dance moves recall Prince from his Purple Rain period. When Kline performs alone, he urgently dances around the stage, winning the crowds affection with each lurid gyration.

Though Hush Hush and R. Kelly share a paradoxically playful seriousness, Kline differentiates Hush Hush from Kelly: “For me it’s more about operating within the confines of pop music already. But the danger since I’m new is not wanting to become a parody, like you don’t want to become a Weird Al. So now I’m probably going to move more into a blurry area. The most important thing is to make good music that people like.”

– Paul Diddy

Hush Hush is playing with Yeasayer and Smith Westerns on May 25 & 26 at The Fillmore in San Francisco