Monday, 14 May 2012

Kwes - Meantime EP

Beginning to end, Meantime feels complete. Not just because the tracks flow together so perfectly or because the rapid flits between styles makes it feel like no stone’s left unturned musically, but because it seems like a perfectly executed statement of Kwes’ ideals as an artists.

I say this with no trace of pretension: this EP reinvents pop. No, it isn’t a year-zero kinda thing, it’s more a deliberate deconstruction of what makes a song perfect. Of course, there isn’t a chance in hell anything here is going to get played on commercial radio, but the having the innate workings of a song spilled in front of you with the precision of a surgeon means it’s difficult imagining the tracks in any other context than by each other’s side.

Not that this should distract from the songs themselves, all of which are fascinating to no end. Opener Klee is a delightful, meandering, almost ambient affair, what with its fluid structure and lack of a discernible backbone. Bashful is even better, four and a bit minutes of overlapping percussion lines, a synth line that simply bubbles and best of all a chorus that’s at once simplistic and heart-wrenchingly sad. It’s probably the track that best represents the tone of the rest of Meantime in that it packs in most of the tricks and sounds that litter the rest of it, from water noises to a sudden beat change to an ending that seems both distant and symbolic of whatever’s proceeded it.

Closer Igoyh is the only time it all unravels. Starting off well enough and building to a wonderful midpoint crescendo, it all devolves into a mess of electronic whirrs and refuses to return. It’s far from unlistenable; more simply it feels remote and unfriendly when compared to the warmth that emanates elsewhere. Though it lends a rather definitive end to proceedings, it leaves the listener unsure and unfulfilled.

Sandwiched roughly in the middle of all this is Honey, a simple love song with a sweetly innocuous refrain and hook upon hook upon hook. It sounds like mid-noughties UK R’n’B recorded underwater, or a doped-up Hudson Mohawke producing a Xenomania track. It’s thrilling stuff, bolstered by a sprightly running time and the best vocal work Kwes has offered to date. It makes you realise that you’re in the company of someone a bit special.


Ned Powley

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