(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

CD review - Knowa Knowone, Sound Paintings (2011)

Bass and glitch go global
Knowa Knowone's Sound Paintings lays out an electronic vibe that bridges club space and head space -- feet tap while the mind expands. The EP features five main tracks along with the obligatory remixes. Bass and glitch are the favored sonic elements, but Knowone also stirs in dub step, occasional hip hop beats, and non-electronic parts to create a vibrant sound.

Even as the bass growls through each track, the songs tread their own paths for an engaging listen. Each has a starting direction and mood that set the theme for Knowone's exploration. Aside from the seasoning of different musical sounds, the tracks also vary the sonic density, from the sparse groove of The Quari to the fully fleshed Ra (the Sun).

Here's the quick rundown of the main tracks:
  • The Quari opens with a brief vocal that sounds like a Muezzin calling the faithful to prayer. This vocal chanting wanders in and out, adding an exotic feel. The moody groove itself is very open, leaving lots of space. Teases of deep bass punctuate a bouncy beat, while languid Middle Eastern melody lines drift by like cigarette smoke. The overall feel evokes Two Tone era ska, world beat, and trippy electronica all at the same time. The Quari is a great lead off song that pulls jaded listeners in for more.
  • Naked on Acid changes the mood completely. A basic hip hop beat sets the rhythm, but the rest of the music is trippy bordering on a trance vibe. Dubby electronica threads a path between dub step and glitch. The heavy bass has a malevolent vibe while the higher synth lines imply a more detached feel. Ambient bits of sound add a heady element. The rhythmic parts on top of the foundation beat create a dancing elephant sort of feel. This lightens up during a dreamy, floating bridge section.
  • Let Me Tell You a Story lives up to its title: the flow between song sections creates a sense of progression, moving between sparse and layered moments. The glitchy, machinelike groove is built on a solid, laid back beat. Heavy bass undertones pulse while piano accents stand out on the quiet moments. It's not my favorite track, but it's still fairly strong.
  • Fire on the Roof is even stronger. Turntable scratches complements a driving glitch hop groove. The choppy jam is sprinkled with cool rap samples that slide in and out. The track cooks up an old vs. new feel that honors both. Retro scratching samples gain a sweet tension from the nasty electronic groove.
  • Ra (the Sun) veers into another unique mix. Sweetly harmonized string lines soothe against a throbbing bass as hip hop vocals weave into the mix. Organic meets electronic to create a cybernetic synergy. The lyrical flow is smooth, with a contrast between the rapped verses and the R&B tinged chorus vocals. The track is packed with details to tease out on repeated listens. One of the remixes is just an instrumental version of this track, which stands up well, but the vocals bring the song into focus and add meaning.
Speaking of remixes, I'm not generally an aficionado. Sound Paintings includes two real remixes aside from the instrumental version of Ra (the Sun). While they aren't bad, neither offers a stronger perspective on the original versions. That's okay though, the backbone tracks do a fine job of showing off what Knowa Knowone can do.

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