“I can’t seem to separate music from the rest of my life. It’s all intertwined,” says Canadian band-member-turned-electronic producer Kuhrye-oo in an interview posted yesterday. Surely this must be the case for many of those who are lucky and daring enough to call music their career, but one has to wonder from artist to artist how deep that entanglement runs. Lately it’s not as uncommon to discover more sides than you expected from an artist you love, driven into existence by a false dichotomy of what they “are” and “are not” by our genre-obsessed generation. Extreme examples of offshoots like the Dipset Trance Party made a splash and burst bubbles of preconception when they were unveiled, but let’s face it: as hard as we may try, music is not made to be compartmentalized. While a wide taste in music is celebrated and a vast musical knowledge is venerated among listeners, we tend to kick up a stink when our favourite artists drift from the genre they’ve been anchored to by their fans. The tsunami of side-projects and pseudonyms being announced each day can be overwhelming, but just think of how dull our lives would be if Scuba never branched out to SCB (an easier one to remember, sure), or if Om Unit never did Philip D Kick, if Headhunter had never ventured into Addison Groove… Aliases, side-projects and new identities give artists a way to experiment with new sounds through trial and error which can only help them grow, and benefits the listener in the end too.
Tangential observations aside, where does Kuhrye-oo himself fit in to all of this? It was while blindly hearing his EP for the first time that it made an impression, but after learning more it made significantly more impact. His self-titled EP is brought to us by New York City-based label UNO, which in the past has brought forth an eclectic selection from artists like CFCF, d’Eon, Jacques Greene, Arca, as well as the stunner that is Fatima Al Qadiri’s “Genre-Specific Xperience” mini-LP. Kuhrye-oo was a brand new name to us and his UNO release was a debut, but if we dig back we can find his mark left on the music scene in a number of places. He’s part of Canadian group Gobble Gobble, now known as Born Gold (of which other members make up Purity Ring), and plays MPC in Grimes’ touring band (see him performing with her here). In his interview with Dummy (where he also provides an interesting mix) he reveals that he became “engulfed in a music lifestyle” early in life as he started a punk band. He says, “Punk is one of those things that you’re kind of in it or you’re not and I was all in.” Letting himself be submersed so fully is an inspiring move, and the resulting richness fleshes out his EP, surely in more ways than we’re even able to identify.
Stream: Kuhrye-oo – Give In (For The Fame)
Opening track “Human Rights” sounds as though it would lend itself right to a live set, transforming from a fairly organic beginning to a twinkling suspense punctuated by a minimal number of sounds, to great effect. The way each aspect fades out until the end leaves the listener patiently awaiting the next track, which is a notable quality of the EP – these aren’t really “tracks” meant to be chopped into convenient pieces to use at the DJ’s whim, but “songs” to be played in their entirety. To the same effect, they aren’t particularly body-moving, but something about them makes you feel warm & fuzzy inside. “Give In (For the Fame)” was given away to a fair amount of acclaim across the major blogosphere outlets this week, you can stream it above or download it at Pitchfork if it tickles your fancy. It’s an R&B-sampling track that, on the surface, fits in place with recent releases characterizing the new future-whatever post-whatever sound sweeping the nation, but a bassline firmly planted in the indie realm, thereby removing it from being a casualty of trends and making it something you’d want to put on a mixtape. “Untitled” feels like an interlude, again with percussion that sounds like it could be played on an actual kit instead of an 808, looping until the listener falls into a trance. “Temple” is perhaps the quietest offering on the EP, with layers of piano, synth, claps, chipmunked vocal and all else fading in and out of focus to reach a climax that’s more soothing than rousing.
Stream: Kuhrye-oo – Temple (Don Froth Remix)
Remixes come from Nadus, who leaves the usual brashness of the Brick Bandits at the door and manages to retain the delicacy of the original “Human Rights,” adding in enough subtle changes that it’s not terribly different on first listen, but when held side by side there’s a clear enhancement from what’s there before. The remix is available for download via XLR8R. The Don Froth remix of “Temple,” which you can listen to above, takes it far, far from the melancholy piece it was before. Suddenly the sad sample sounds haunting and is twisted into an arrangement that is decidedly more at-home in the more widely accepted “dance music” world than the rest of the EP.
The Kuhrye-oo EP was lovely when we listened to it, but to be honest, it probably wouldn’t have been as striking if we hadn’t done our homework. It’s increasingly easy to take music at face value wherever you happen to look for music – and sometimes the anonymity can be a good thing. Of course there are artists that push their music while staying in the shadows as much as possible. On the other hand, the ability to dissociate oneself from the music we listen to while the information is out there for us to digest enables a handicap that cuts us off from so much more. The relationship between musician and listener is a more of an obligate symbiotic one than we might like to admit, one cannot exist without the other. Let this serve as a reminder that whether or not there’s more to be found out about a release or artist, it’s the listener’s duty to find out whether that information is there. Learning about the many sides and projects of Kuhrye-oo opened an entire new dimension of perspective into his EP and helped us to appreciate it for the multi-faceted, thoughtful piece that it is, as well as allowing us to appreciate its context and everything behind it. Sharing this information is obviously our mission, but we hope that you might take away our emphasis on the importance of minor detective work in everyday listening in order to derive as much joy as we did from Kuhrye-oo’s music from countless releases in the future.
Kuhrye-oo’s self-titled EP was released May 1st and you can buy it here.