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K-LONE - Cape Cira Music Album Reviews

The British producer’s bubbly, refreshing latest record is a celebration writ small, music for a barnburner in a dollhouse.

There’s something undeniably entrancing about the little donk that happens when you smack a xylophone. Same with the rubbery thwack of the conga. They are instant little dopamine-release mechanisms, and thus the bar is low for pleasing instrumental percussion records: Record yourself with moderate skill for a half an hour and, chances are, you’ve got something hypnotic enough to find an audience. In some ways, this describes K-Lone’s Cape Cira. It’s a record of small and bubbly percussion, featuring an added array of digital embellishments. But Cape Cira is a lush piece of music, one that uses familiar tools to create something fresh and vibrant.
K-Lone, a young British producer named Josiah Gladwell, brings a kitchen-sink approach to the instrumentation. Yes, he relies on the lovely resonance of the marimba, but there’s also what sounds like pots and pans, Coke bottles, timpani, bells, castanets, and toy pianos. Gladwell claims to use both digital and analog sounds, but it’s impossible to tell what’s what. Listen closely and you’ll hear some bird chirps that are clearly digitized. Listen not so closely and you’ll swear you heard a nightingale out your window. Put it on in the background and you’ll experience bliss by association; pay close attention and you’ll likely be genuinely touched by its depth.
Cape Cira is equally sprawling in its tone. The underlying drums on “In the Pines” are accompanied by a wordless chorus, and something that sounds like a guitar solo played underwater at half speed. “Honey” uses an almost hip-hop backbeat; through K-Lone’s lens, though, it sounds like a more zen version of the bouncy rhythms you often hear bucket drummers pounding out on subway platforms. The main rhythm of “Palmas” is undergirded with the sound of someone hammering tin. “Bluefin” is perhaps the album’s loveliest moment, with slowly building pan drums undergirded by Eno-esque long tones. Shards of noise jump in and out. At one point, a raygun noise shoots across the landscape. The song is not greater than the sum of its parts; it just uses its parts very innovatively. The whole album is a celebration writ small, music for a barnburner in a dollhouse.

This is the first time K-Lone’s made music anywhere near this sumptuous. His 2017 song “Old Fashioned” hinted in this direction, beginning with a spare synth line and some bird calls (it seems he really likes birds) before breaking into heavy dub, like it couldn’t quite sustain its subdued ambitions. With Cape Cira, he’s largely dropped any desire for propulsion in favor of an outward creep, like a stain slowly spreading in all directions at once.

In discussing this album, K-Lone has cited the Fourth World movement, which takes its name from a 1980 album by Brian Eno and trumpeter Jon Hassell. Hassell has emerged as a key influence on today’s composers and electronic producers, each with their own way of blending percussive music with digital effects. K-Lone’s one-time collaborator, producer Don’t DJ, has been tongue-in-cheek with his liberal use of Balinese gamelan music, even releasing an EP called Authentic Exoticism. Another K-Lone touchstone, Visible Cloaks, have been more than upfront about their love of Japanese New Age and ’80s ambient music. Cape Cira touches on all these styles and more. If he wasn’t so skilled at blending everything seamlessly, it might come off as naive. If anything, that’s Cape Cira’s major fault; it’s almost too meticulous. If you found it cloying, I wouldn’t blame you. But there is something sweet about K-Lone’s wholesale embrace of sound, like he couldn’t choose an allegiance to any one idea, so he had to find a way to make them all work.
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