The Color Of Music
British DJ and producer Kwes is a synesthete. That is, a person who has a fascinating neurological condition that is estimated to occur in varying degrees in one in 25,000 people. Synesthesia is the simultaneous occurrence of multiple senses. In Kwes’s case, he hears color, a sub-group of synethesia called chromesthesia. On his first full-length debut, he invites listeners to join him on a walk down this psychedelic-sounding yellow brick road. Ilp is the second offering from this sought-after remixer, a rising star of the avant-garde producing world. He has an interesting resume that includes production credits on recordings from DELS, Damon Albarn, the keyboardist for Bobby Womack, and collaboration with Micachu. Kanye West has even used a sample from Meantime, Kwes’ 2012 EP. Adept at playing a role behind the scenes, Ilp is a foray into Kwes’ personal world.
Impressionistic, shape-laden at times while completely free-form at others, Ilp is like a mellow mystery tour. The first track, “Purplehands,” begins with a gathering drone and proceeds to dance through rhythmic and arrhythmic sequences, guided by extremely effected monotone vocals. There are so many echoes that at times it’s hard to focus on the lyrics. Kwes’ voice isn’t sing-songy; he awkwardly jumps and bops his way through the tracks like a paraglider trying to land on a windy day. But his bashful confidence has an old-soul believability. The cinematic “Cablecar” is like a little movie soundtrack. It is eight minutes long and ends with a circus cacophony of sounds. “Broke” is the sad story of someone, maybe homeless, who is down on their luck and wants to sleep and never wake up. The standout is “Rollerblades,” a childhood love story with overly simplified lyrics: “You said to me, come rollerblade with me / Unfortunately I didn’t ‘cuz I had to go in for dinner.” It’s got a bright melody and is more sing-able that a lot of the more experimental tracks. The last track is a reworking of “B-shf-l” from Meantime, a smart and catchy tune with a new twist.
Kwes excels at combining seemingly random components, or colors in his case, and swirling them around to create an evocative new sound palette. There are hints of dub-step, trip-hop, soundscape, soul and The Smiths woven together blissfully. Ilp is not commercial or chorus-driven, and it’s not really even catchy at times, but it is a captivating listen and signals the arrival of a talented and very original thinker on the electronica scene. Give it a listen and see what you think.