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.
South East London producer/songwriter kwes. grew his reputation as a producer through a series of collaborations with indie bands like the xx, Hot Chip, and Damon Albarn, as well as a few EPs and one-off tracks leaked online. Debut album ilp. shows a solid representation of the producer's versatility, strength, and flexible sense of experimentation, with ten tracks that spill into different territory without ever losing the plot or their inner-connectivity.
Kwesi Sey, better known as Kwes, is an artist of two parts, but those two parts seem to exist simultaneously, with the result that his music is remarkably distinctive but entirely cohesive. On one hand, he’s a writer of pop songs that deal with the traditional subjects of pop music – many of them are love songs – but on the other hand, he’s an experimentalist who has produced for The xx and DELS, remixed Damon Albarn and Zero 7, and played keys for Bobby Womack. The fact that he’s a pop artist signed to Warp is perhaps the best way of summing up what he does: he’s constantly pushing the envelope, but his music has a comforting, familiar – and indeed an enveloping – feel.
Lewisham’s knob-twiddler extraordinaire, Kwes, after a string of lauded collaborations (including with The XX, Valentina and Micachu), mixtapes and reworks, is unveiling the solo outing we’ve been waiting yonks for. After a career spent largely behind the scenes on production duties, Kwes – real name Kwesi Sey – is gracing the proverbial centre court to parade his own material and extensive compositional skills. In the time he’s been behind the mixing desk, we’ve grown to know Kwes as an artist who cultivates a unique brand of noise, and on his debut foray, he expands upon what we’ve seen implied over the past few years.
Producing for the xx, playing keys for Bobby Womack, recording mixtapes with Micachu, being sampled by Kanye – 26-year-old Londoner Kwes has done a lot before releasing his debut album. You can see why doors have opened: there's something distinct and unusually ebullient about his electronic balladeering. That's not to say it's upbeat; the tempo is low, the vocals are monotone, the sonic pallette often that of drone and discord, and the lyrics can seem inconsequential.
Lewisham based “freepop” artist Kwes, releases his sophomore album ilp after paying his dues as a sort after remixer (Damon Albarn, Amon Tobin, Zero 7, Hot Chip) and producer (The XX, Speech Debelle, Micachu), for seminal UK institution Warp Records, the label that released his EP Meantime last year. Tender, innocent and heartfelt are all decent words you could use to describe Kwes’ unique brand of experimental, warm, R&B tinged noise-pop. However, don’t let those ‘soft’ words lull you into thinking this record is twee, cheesy or overtly sentimental as that is simply not the case.
London-based pop artist Kwes is supposedly gifted with chromesthesia, the ability to experience sound as color. Assuming the rich textures and surprising palettes that pop up on his long-awaited debut, ilp, are the result of his super-human ability, Kwes is putting it to good use. Ilp is an impulsive and disarming work of murky meditations structured less like a pop record and more like a Jackson Pollock painting.
New Musical Express (NME) - 70 Based on rating 3.5/5
London producer Kwes has added his intimate electronica to The xx, toured with Bobby Womack’s band and been sampled by Kanye. But these endorsements don’t seem to have boosted his confidence, and this debut initially sounds low-key to the point of negligible. It’s not until you listen on headphones that it opens up a new world. Play it this way and the looped beats and string samples of ‘Hives’ are richer, his cracked baritone on ‘Cablecar’ melts gorgeously into its warped backdrop, and the low-key pop of ‘B_shf_l’ and ‘Rollerblades’ hint at crossover potential.
For most of his career, the British producer and singer Kwes has done his work in the background. He mixed records for the xx in their early days and produced for his friend Mica Levi, Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard and Mercury award winner Speech Debelle. He was talented enough to catch Damon Albarn’s ear and was one of the musicians selected to travel to the Congo for the DRC Music project, comfortably collaborating without the pressure that comes with being center stage.
Kwes is a hopeless romantic, leaning on smooth, easygoing seduction, no pick-up lines or sly womanizing tactics necessary. He’s all about the charm, whether swooning from unrequited love or pouring out his compassionate heart. These sensitive, thoughtful instincts have helped create a stacked collaboration roster, ranging from Damon Albarn to The xx.
Kwes has had the luxury, over the past two years or more, of being painted as a prodigy waiting in the wings. Dribbling out product since 2009 in the form of a low-key single and two EPs of intimate, lovingly detailed pop, the London musician has been plagued with welcome distractions from the task of completing his debut album. As well as working with Ghostpoet, Micachu and Speech Debelle, he’s performed with Bobby Womack, written music for an opera and travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo to make music with Damon Albarn (although who hasn’t, these days?).