The inaugural release on KMRU’s own fledgling OFNOT imprint, ‘Dissolution Grip’ is an ambitious project that emerged from his studies at Berlin’s prestigious UDK. The Kenyan composer and sound artist is best known for his field recording work, and as he traveled across Europe and the wider world for regular live performances, he made a point to snapshot each city. But the more he studied and the more he examined his practice, the more KMRU began to wonder what the purpose of these recordings were, and what bearing they might actually have on his self-expression. Simultaneously, he’d begun to dive more wholeheartedly into the world of synthesis. In a way, synthesis is the most basic form of sound, and KMRU started to wonder not just how he could harness these sounds but how he might be able to more dynamically combine them with field recordings.
Guided by Jasmine Guffond at Berlin’s Universität der Künste (better known as UDK), KMRU looked at waveforms – the visual representation of sound itself – and embarked on a process where he would write scores from the shapes, gradually turning the scores into raw synth sounds. Considering the spaces he was inspired by and shuttled through, KMRU decided that instead of using environmental recordings as an aesthetic marker, he would use these captured moments to guide the waveforms. So each sound is birthed from a field recording, but none of those recordings are audible in their original form. For example, on the digital bonus track ‘Along A Wall’, KMRU recorded in an old shack on his family’s compound in Nairobi, where wind was shaking the building to its foundations. Listening to the finished piece, we can hear subtle electronic tones that rub and vibrate against each other, slowly saturating and mimicking the erratic motion of the wind. The original recording has been removed, but the feeling remains.
The album’s opening side ‘Till Hurricane Bisect’ is a 15-minute epic that evolves at its own glacial pace, carefully transforming blustering wind sounds into gasping drones, glassy oscillations and choked distortion. Cosmic and meditative, it’s a testament to KMRU’s skill as a sound engineer and patience as a composer, combining the gentle world building of his acclaimed Editions Mego album ‘Peel’ with the rumbling energy of ‘Limen’, last year’s collaboration with Aho Ssan. On the title track, KMRU takes the opportunity to flex his orchestral muscle, conducting a cast of warbling synth tones into a durational symphony. Starting as quietly as a whisper, ‘Dissolution Grip’ expands at its own pace until it’s a dense wall of harmony, powerful but never completely overwhelming. It’s music embedded with a rich sense of place that informs us of KMRU’s past and present, and signals where his musical philosophy might take us in the future.