KMRU – ‘Argon’: marrying Berlin ambience with Kenyan gleam in a masterful shimmer

Joseph Kamaru, aka KMRU

DIVIDING his time between that crucible of leftfield musical innovation, Berlin, and Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, Joseph Kamaru has been self-releasing seductive music for a number of years now; his particular groove a textural electronica with wide vision that weaves together the expansive and delicate electronic musics issuing from the former, and field recordings and a heartbeat of melody and sun from the latter.

For the purposes of music he takes his surname only, scrubs out the vowels and emerges as KMRU. His forthcoming album, Logue, is his first excursion for the excellent Injazero Records.

Last year he dropped a trio of albums including Peel, for Editions Mego; Opaquer, for Michigan’s Dagoretti, and the cassette-only Jar, for Frankfurt’s Seil Records.

He’s following the bright, spacious delight of March’s “OT” today with “Argon”, the album’s opening track; come wade in the water.

“Argon” evolves from a retro synth voicing with a minor interlude that pretty much envelops you from the get-go, soon gains companionship in a high glimmer of cycling melody, that swoops and transports. The higher popping and bubbling is a conscious transposition of the brightness of African melody into the modern ambient tradition. You could say that this is entirely within the pocket of the genre, as it were; and it doesn’t pull any especially new tricks, but this sort of seeming melodic simplicity is so hard to get right.

When you hear something in this field not quite reach its intended target, oh boy, you so you know; it’s deflating and it’s jarring. “Argon” works with sweeps of tone, rising and falling, beautifully designed sound and nuance. It sounds like a classic British ambient tune on Rising High, and that’s a complete compliment. It takes real understanding to get here.

Logue is a compilation drawing on years of self-released works spanning the years 2017 to 2019, carefully selected for a blissful and intelligent journey. He draws on the huge German ambient tradition and brings African influences through field recordings from Kenya and adjoining East African states, lending a bright lushness to his clean, spatial works. His gradually unfolding sonic landscapes are always playing off that other atmosphere of field recordings, allowing his Kenyan culture not just to shine through but to marry and twine with a standing ambient canon.

“Every track reflects an event, space or location,” he says. “The pieces are developed from field recordings, improvisation and spontaneity.”

His music moves glacially slowly, a good thing in a world marred by the frenetic, despite (depending on your location) the faux respite of lockdown; it has that depth and sweep you find in Thomas Köner, Loscil, Stars of the Lid and other such scions, but while working with a great and familiar form he also brings a unique tonal voicing with his use of field recordings from across his home continent; also the antiphony (call and response, or almost a dialogic musical style), common to African musical traditions.

I’ve sensed for a while that this sort of ambience, as also realised so beautifully by The Irresistible Force and Global Communications, might come again strongly, and this and J. Willgoose’s Late Night Final project from the end of last year certainly point the way.

KMRU’s Logue will be released by Injazero Records digitally and on vinyl on May 14th, and is available to pre-order from the label shop, here.

Connect with KMRU on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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