Published Nov 27, 2019Better known as a visual artist who's worked with Björk, Arca and FKA twigs, Jesse Kanda has established himself as a go-to hand behind some of the darker, more alien sounds and images entering pop music and culture, first laying down his own twisted sounds on a pair of EPs in 2017 and 2018 under the name Doon Kanda.
The title Kanda has chosen for his first full-length effort is Labyrinth, but it consistently evokes another mythic environ, its watery, neo-gothic waltzes often sounding like the auditory equivalents of a woozy gondola ride down the River Styx.
After a heaving opening waltz, the stream of rhythms that propel "Dio" flit like the tiny gears of a mechanical watch, string-like synths pursuing wandering minor progressions that have a Middle Eastern character to them, but there's an off-balanced quality to the production that makes the notes sound like they're being swallowed up by a black hole.
Kanda's compositions continue to feel as if reaching out for footing in the dark, as "Gut" takes a gloomy carnival theme for a nauseous, dubbed-out ride, while "Natasya" lurks along like a quieter, more introspective relative to the tortured "Tethered Mix" treatment that Luniz's "Five On It" got for Jordan Peele's Us. The tracks on either side of it hint at metamorphosis — "Wing" overwhelmes with insectoid fluttering, while "Pieridae" invokes a family of butterflies.
"Mino" smears cathedral organs into tempestuous drama before slipping into a chilling piano sequence, while "Search" casts windy synthesizers over a foggy, submerged scene like the sweeping beacon of a lighthouse.
A press release frames this dance as an emotional one between hell and heaven, but like its titular labyrinth, its origin and departure feel one and the same — a point that feels emphasized by the titles of the first and final tracks. Labyrinth is a site for self discovery: a place to get lost in and emerge with a new understanding of yourself. (Hyperdub)