Friday 16 May 2014


From the first ambient whirrings into life on 'All Is Lost', the opener – and more of an electronic dawn than a big bang – to Kidkanevil's brand new album My Little Ghost is in essence a sojourn through soundscapes; it's a walk through the woods, through your city at twilight, down a countryside lane at early evening; it's a lazy afternoon watching TV with sun bulging through the windows, a rainy day spent watching a rainy day go by, a snooze on a beach. At the same time, these are spacey, fantastical, cosmically charged pieces that conjure as much unreality as your mind can imagine.

Songs with titles like 'Escape Pod' take us away on journeys; in an escape pod, or rather, the song itself is an escape pod. A cute menagerie of bleeps and bips great and small gives way to nebulose sounds, shooting through space on a hopefully homeward yet lonesome trajectory, mechanical percussion skittering all the way. Next track 'Dimension Bomb' (presumably named after the short animated film of the same name) starts with a boom, which pockmark the track later on as explosions in other planes of existence felt here & now, then follows an arpeggio as it mutates through thickets of ever-frenzied cymbal, kinetic fizz and organ-like synth. Fantasy atmospheres arise in piano-flavoured 'Shunkanido' ("Teleportation" in Japanese), whose melody seems fittingly in a Japanese scale of some kind; I imagine somebody trying to teleport somewhere – and nearly getting there, with the exciting clatter of cymbals and sub-bass bulges – but ultimately finding themselves in the same room. A very persistent image of persistence and hope in light of frustrating failure.

Playful yet serious vibes arise in the glisteningly FX-laden beats and relentless arpeggios of 'Keroro Dub', inspired by Keroro Gunso, the least perhaps "atmospheric" of the tracks. It's almost in direct opposition to Japan-only track 'Tales Of Moonlight And Rain', whose hip hop tilted beat harbours videogame sounds, clusters of invading glitch, and a final third that glows feel-good with electronic watery burblings and gurglings and warm synth chords like the sun peeking out just before rain finishes. Likewise 'OG San' (a pun on the Japanese for uncle, 'ojisan') commands its fair share of atmosphere, feeling like a dim and nowhere house with all its domestic noises of fridge hummings, distant TV sounds, contented breathing replicated by insectoid percussion, warm synth and snippets of tiny piano.

This comes after the pair of tracks, 'Ohayo' ('good morning') and 'Oyasumi' ('goodnight') – the first opens up with warmly stumbling successions of spherical tones, echoing a clumsy body and slow state of mind in the morning; the second is more structured, running on an insomniacally ticking beat, and restlessly reverbing marimba, a vocal sample nestled nonchalantly in there, breezy squelch synth following the marimba all the way to the chaotic ending. Given its busier setting, it's as if Kidkanevil (who gives his location as "Tokyorkshire") is trying to say it's more exciting being a night owl than an early bird.

'Earth to G San' is the first of a few collaborations on My Little Ghost, working on this classically glitchy track with Tetsuya Hikita to produce rippling arpeggios (that put me in mind of the Final Fantasy VII prelude) over scratching hiss snare and random noises. Next up, the organic-meets-synthetic bustle of 'Inakunaru' co-stars experimental hip hop producer Phasma, and is a shapeshifting song, changing form and tack a few times as it goes on. The ever-welcome singer/songmaker Cuushe appears, twice, once in arguably the album's strongest song, 'Butterfly/Satellite' – which, also featuring the beatmaking prowess of London's submerse, shows off the breathy richness of Cuushe's vocals and provides an addictively synthetic juke rhythm to bop along to; later on, Cuushe lends her composition skills to the glockespielic, music-box-like, touching toybox sounds of 'All Is Not Lost' – the direct antithesis to starter track 'All Is Lost'. Glitched-out beats underpin plumes of bass and organesque synth, melodic percussion flitting in the air alongside bleeps and buzzings, gloriously and fluidly transitional from start to finish. Whereas 'All Is Lost' is a drizzly, despair-filled morning, 'All Is Not Lost' is a golden afternoon with promise of more to come.

Also lending her talents to 'All Is Not Lost' is Cokiyu, who also features on 'Tomie' (named after the manga of the same name, maybe) – her ghostly voice adds a phantomesque quality to what is possibly the most minimalist track on the album. Its transition from worrisome breezes and xylophonic platitudes to a second half of plaintive singing and simplistic melody alongside disturbed white noise panning from ear to ear is not only effective but clever and beautiful too. It's a good illustrator for the album as a whole: with electronic noises and organic percussive sounds arises two feelings, one of cuteness and playfulness – with all its titular references to otaku and Japanese culture – which fades to one that's kind of a blank, directionless hope.

That's not to say it's negative, or even melancholy; My Little Ghost, in its very title, summons a more diminutive, more romantic, less threatening yet just as omnipresent and affecting version of "the black dog", a euphemism for depression. It might not be that, exactly – it could be more that a particular memory or another feeling, maybe even just curiosity, is the "little ghost" – but it's certainly a thoughtful, beautiful title for a thoughtful, beautiful set of songs. It's something to put on, leave on, listen to, walk in and out of, and lie back to.

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