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Kwes

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Kwes
9
In music criticism, music is often discussed in visual terms. A songwriter "paints" brutalist strokes with his guitars; a singer "sculpts" an audio landscape with her voice; a producer "weaves" a rich tapestry out of sonic fibres. But when it comes to South East London-born producer Kwes, that's actually true. Afflicted by an acute mental condition (Chromesthesia), which essentially allows a person to witness sounds as colours, even in their most basic forms, Kwes's attempts at audio exploration allow for three-dimensional listening experiences that rival any mind-altering, substance-plus-mp3 journey. Nowhere is this more evident than on the long-time producer's debut LP, which finds the Lewisham lyricist delivering poignant wanderings from within his inner-monologue, while voicing a soul-expanding sound that makes James Blake's noir&B cool seem like nothing more than ostentatious art school assignments. Beginning with the fully formed sketches of album opener "Broke," Kwes takes listeners on the career-defining retrospective of a growing mind, delivering consistently New Order-ish bass lines with a Casio keyboard sound adding a rhythmic backbone to his acoustically fractured, yet highly percussive audio barrages. With a vocal cadence similar to DRC collaborator Damon Albarn, at his most deadpan, and Mike Milosh-ish, at his most angelic, Kwes uses downtrodden vibratos as an accent rather than highlight, letting his chillwave-inspired audio vignettes do the talking. The fact he ends the album with a pop tune ("36") is no accident. After a half-hour of genre-defying rhythms and atmospheric excursions, it's nice to remember what a normal song sounds like — and then realize you're better off without it. (Warp)
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