Release Date: Sep 18, 2015
Record label: Ninja Tune
Genre(s): Electronic, Experimental Ambient, Experimental Dub
Edition 1 breaks an almost four-year period of near silence from King Midas Sound. As producer Kevin Martin and vocalists Kiki Hitomi and Roger Robinson pursued individualized outlets, little was heard from them as a unit apart from "Aroo," a single issued in 2013 that marked their move from Hyperdub to Ninja Tune. The A-side was a sweetly battering dub/shoegaze hybrid, conceivably informed by the aggressive temperament the group's performances had taken, while "Funny Love" was a tearful ambient ballad.
I remember the first time I saw King Midas Sound: May of 2010, during the FutureEverything festival in Manchester. Their debut Hyperdub album, Waiting For You, had been stewing in its gloomy, heartbroken juices for a few months already. Syrian wedding singer Omar Souleyman, Demdike Stare and the legendary Mark Ernestus, performing with Paul St. Hilaire, were also billed.
Edition 1 marks the first in a series of collaborations for Kevin Martin (The Bug, GOD, Techno Animal & many more…)’s King Midas Sound project (which sees him collaborating with singer Kiki Hitomi and poet Roger Robinson). Ambient drone legend Christian Fennesz is the first to meet King Midas Sound head on. It has to be said, first of all, that there aren’t too many surprises here.
On London Zoo, the 2008 album from Kevin Martin's experimental dub project the Bug, one of the most nimble and beguiling tracks, "You & Me", was voiced by light-stepping Trinidadian singer-poet Roger Robinson. After that track, Martin and Robinson joined forces as King Midas Sound and followed with the 2009 full-length Waiting for You. Their latest project is a series of four EPs collaborating with an outside artist, beginning with this release with Austrian guitarist-composer Christian Fennesz.
By lucky coincidence, as I sit down to write this review I'm midway through reading a collection of essays on the subject of Dread — a term used often enough with reference to Kevin Martin's music to veer dangerously close to cliche. The book explores the points at which societal and environmental terror meet and mingle, and its range of perspectives emphasises the complexity of dread as an affective state: its capacity to paralyse, but also its potential to inspire imagination and action towards alternative possibilities for the future. Equally, while Martin's chemical dancehall as The Bug may tend towards anxious and brittle, it's just as often cartoonish, splashily colourful and flecked with pitch-black humour.
Edition 1 is the first in a four-album series of collaborations between experimental dub trio King Midas Sound and other artists. For this one they team up with Austrian guitarist Fennesz, who specializes in shimmering beds of electronic drones that often walk a strange line between peaceful and anxious. It's not the most obvious combination sonically, but you quickly recognize their shared interest in ambiguously ominous soundscapes.