KRM / The Bug & KMRU – Disconnect

A titanic experience...

There was a phrase that was banded around by parents when I was at school: “doesn’t play well with others”. It was used to describe kids who wouldn’t share when they came round to play. Later it was applied to kids who had, slight, behaviour issues and would disrupt classrooms. While listening to ‘Disconnect’ the new collaborative album from The Bug and KMRU this phrase comes to mind. On their own, both Kevin Martin and Joseph Kamaru, have very strong sounds and ideas, thematically, and I was worried how their styles would mesh. Would Martin just overload everything with, almost, blast beats and swaths of dub infused electronics, or would Kamaru wash things down to an almost ambient vibe? Luckily, I had nothing to worry about. Both artists play incredibly well with others and have released some of the strongest music they’ve put their name to, to date.  

Martin isn’t a stranger to working with musicians from different backgrounds to his own. His 2016 album ‘Concrete Desert’ with drone doom rock pioneers Earth was phenomenal. The way Carlson’s the static, repetitive, guitar was intertwined with Martin’s bombastic electronics was as inspiring as it was disorienting. Much of that work appears to have laid the foundation for ‘Disconnect’. The same is happening here, but its harder to see what is bring what to the table. On a first listen, it feels like Martin is bringing the darker motifs where as Kamaru is adding light flourishes with melodies. This of course might not be the case, as Kamaru is also no stranger to claustrophobic soundscapes. As it on display on the album’s opener. 

‘Differences’, slowly, kicks things off and sets the rules for what is to follow. The music leans more into ambient than Martin’s brand of Acid Raga. The first thing you notice is the lack of beats. There aren’t any. Everything moves at a glacial pace. This is a masterstroke as it gives the musicians a chance to layer melodies, noise, deep basslines, spoken word vocals, static and repeating drones. It tells us to sit down and immerse ourselves in the deeply rich and nuanced music. One of the standout tracks on the album is ‘Arkives’. Its just shy of 10-minutes of fizzing static, swooning synths and massive feeling of unease. On ‘Arkives’ there is a vocal, maybe a sample, maybe a recording of KMRU, talking about how in Africa everything is passed down in an oral tradition. The use of dialogue/vocals is interesting as it breaks up the maudlin melodies and give us something tangible to grab hold on. Yes, the music is beatless, but it’s also choppy and murky. 

Throughout the album motifs, and melodies, appear and reappear. On ‘Ark’ and ‘Arcs’ the ‘Arkives’ vocal sample comes back and is chopped down to ‘Ark’. On ‘Differences’, ‘Difference’ and ‘Differ’ the bleak melody is back, but slightly skewed each time. These throwbacks are great for two reasons. Firstly, you have to pay attention to what’s going on, in case it comes back later; and secondly, it makes the album feel like one long, intersecting, piece of music, rather than six songs sandwiched together under the banner ‘Disconnect’.

This is an incredible album that gets better with each listen. There are wonderful textures just hidden below the surface. Frequencies that only make themselves known when listening on different speakers, or headphones. The most important thing is that its enjoyable. One thing that experimental/avant-garde musicians miss is that the music has to be enjoyable for someone. Its all well and good having everything in the red and unleashing unrelenting beats at us, but there has to be an element of pleasure derived from the music. Here, on ‘Disconnect’, both Martin and Kamaru, pummel us with heavy tones and static, but they also give us plenty of hooks. This could be Martin’s best collaborative release to date. Everything he learned from working with Earth’s Dylan Carlson is here, but it feels slightly more accessible but also more, as the title suggest, disconnected. At times it feels like Martin and Kamaru aren’t just making new music, but they’re trying to invent a new musical language. This is an album to connect with, on every level. Miss at your peril. 

9/10

Words: Nick Roseblade

-
Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.