Like a lost late-90s IDM gem that also fist-bumps today’s experimental hip hoppers.
Noel Gardner 2012-11-01
The idea of childlike wonder expressed through electronic music is a fairly established one. One notable vehicle for its expression was ambient techno, which had flagship songs like The Orb’s Little Fluffy Clouds.
Nineties acts such as Plaid and Boards of Canada employed bright, primary-colour melodies. Japanese producers like Susumu Yokota and Nobukazu Takemura (who even had a label called Childisc) created something comparable, but more home-listening and less beat-driven.
The duo of Kidkanevil & Daisuke Tanabe is half-Japanese – no prizes for guessing which half; Kidkanevil’s real name is Gerard Roberts – and their first collaborative album is held together with complex stitching, but endearingly simple motifs shine through.
Both members can, and often do, craft breaks: Roberts has released several collections of cut-up instrumental hip hop on the First Word label. Occasionally, for example on Tiny Concrete Block, a jovial and dubsteppy bassline will show its face. Elsewhere, SGstep has a legitimately quite loud kick drum. More often, atmosphere is ushered in through music boxes, or a synth approximating one (Ghostboy) or jangling bells (Cherry Chimes).
Tempos are rarely urgent on Kidsuke, but moments of calm are usually fleeting, thanks to the layers and motifs added to each track. Something like Nanotrees (Out in the Woods) introduces itself almost shyly, adding patters of rhythm and intricate glitches like a very miniature, very unorthodox symphony.
Chords get densely processed into a kind of wheels-on-gravel crunch (Frogs in a Well, Super Deformed), perhaps influenced by Autechre’s Confield album; although Roberts and Tanabe are nowhere near as oppressive as that duo.
As with Autechre, though, and Plaid, Kidsuke is deftly assembled – in a way that makes the hip hop influence palpable even if you’d likely never hear something like this on an actual hip hop record. Beats bump and judder, unlikely sounds are reappropriated and voices are looped until they’re essentially another instrument.
It does all feel like a lost late-90s IDM gem, but that’s no bad thing. Equally, it high-fives certain runners in Flying Lotus’ Californian Brainfeeder crew, who many would say are as "now" as it gets.