Before delving into the Japanese beatmaker’s latest offering, Laws of Nature released by Project Mooncircle, I must admit that I had not heard of Kafuka. However, the listening experience that came from just the two lead singles on the EP, ‘Mustang’ and ‘Fire Rain’, was extraordinary.
The number of layers to the music presented was pleasant surprise – a strong mix of physical instruments in organs and guitars, natural sounds, found sounds, sampling, and undoubtedly a whole slew of other procedures combine to give a sound that I’m currently hard pressed to match neatly with any other artists, though a more IDM-formed James Blake may be the best effort at this point in time. With so many things going on it would be easy indeed to lose yourself in experimentation, but Kafuka combines musical dexterity with clear songwriting and song-structuring ability.
‘Mustang’ opens up with a flurry of IDM-inspired textures being thrown at the listener, sweeps of white noise and cowbell hits being placed over a grainy pad, difficult to decipher vocal samples of various pitches rushing through the arrangement. The artist places the listener in a hypnotised and trance-like state for approximately a minute before dropping a heavy synth and guitar arpeggios – the crescendo, lasting under 30 seconds, leaves the listener wanting more, and this wish is granted in the latter half of the track, where the synth picks up again. The track then closes with a superbly mixed percussion outro, introducing snares, lead synths which dive in and out of the mix, cowbells returning, all fading before the sounds of traffic are left to lead the listener out of the tunnel. Kafuka steers away from the more unsettling aspects to the genre, and instead rather the opposite is achieved, a feeling of achievement, positive forms of energy and excitement, stemming from excellent chord selection from the guitars and synth.
What took hold of me with the second single from the EP is the videogame-like ambience the artist managed to create – whether these sounds were made from scratch via hardware and software, or whether they were found and sampled, the rising and falling sounds of lasers shooting, 8-bit spaceships blasting off, power-ups being gained, and so on, provide a fantastic backing to the more danceable ‘Fire Rain’. After the 3 minute mark Kafuka brings in strings to powerful effect, creating tangible yet comforting tension, the strings opening up to form an astral pad, before an unfiltered synth drops the listener into a body grooving beat just under a minute later. Again, the chord selection must be admired, driving the songs percussion, layered claps in a Mura Masa style being matched with more industrial and IDM sounds. The track clocks in at almost 7 minutes, but most definitely does not get boring.
With these two tracks alone Kafuka should be proud. The result is a sound that is exciting but not too difficult on the ears – I feel as if even those who don’t dabble in IDM could find enjoyment in these singles and indeed Laws of Nature as a whole, a fantastic follow up his own work Polyhedron and his contributions to Project Mooncircle’s 15th anniversary compilation release.
– Words by Mo Hafeez