After several years of recording the traditional music of indigenous people in Kenya, Stefan Schneider and Sven Kacirek formed their own band and released their 2015 debut, Shadows Documents. The record drew from both traditional Kenyan and Krautrock influences, and included a guest spot from Fela Kuti & Africa 70 percussionist Nicholas Addo-Nettey. The synth-percussion duo have now returned with Radius Walk, which includes Swedish singer Sofia Jernberg on three tracks.
On Shadows Documents you could hear more electro and Krautrock influence in the rigid rhythmic grids, but Radius Walk finds the musicians loosening up a bit more. Press materials seem to attribute this to their live performance experiences over the last few years, and their honed intuition shows on the playful "Arbeit 16" and one of Jernberg's guest spots, "I Atlanten."
Jernberg's presence adds a lot in the few tracks that feature her. "Dust" opens the album with gentle coos and strange, unplaceable noises that sound insect-like, futuristic and meditative all at once. "Smiling" closes the album with more free-flowing vocalizations, which might remind some of Jenny Hval at her most abstract. Around the three-minute mark, when Jernberg sings "keep shining, keep smiling," her voice is pushed to such tense extremes that you feel like the lyrics are a desperate plea, a cling to optimism amidst oppressive circumstances.
While "Duett" is the most sumptuous synth-groove here, and "Back" sounds like at least two or three very tasteful, minimal percussionists playing at once, Schneider Kacirek's true strengths seem to be in their curatorship and their fluid collaboration. (Bureau B)