Another one of my albums of the year. Really beautiful stuff to drift away to!
Label Notes - Kuro take their name from the Japanese word for ‘black’, and their debut release for Rocket Recordings marks an experimental union between two diversely storied yet inherently like-minded musicians. Agathe Max, who hails originally from Lyon, is a classically-trained violinist with a varied back catalogue of studio and live work - running the gamut from spectral ambience to stately soundscapes and adept at summoning dreamstates and drama alike, her emotive and engaging work has found admirers at a number of UK festivals such as Supersonic and Raw Power.
The Bristol-based Gareth Turner, meanwhile, maintains a busy schedule performing and recording with Rocket Recordings trio Anthroprophh (alongside The Heads guitarist Paul Allen) bass/drums duo Big Naturals, and his solo double-bass project Salope, as well as working as a touring tech for Melvins on their trips to Europe. Yet despite both of these artists’ multi-faceted artistic lives, their partnership was both a natural progression and reflective of an intuitive chemistry. The result of their initial spark is perhaps both artists’ most coherent and captivating work to date.
“The duet was born a couple of years ago when we first met to play a gig on the same bill at a ZamZam Records night at Café Kino in Bristol.” relates Agathe. “At the end of the show we decided to play a jam together, and the improvisation went very well - Gareth and I had already a very similar approach to the sound, textures and layers with our solo projects so it was easy to connect and create a wider range of frequencies playing together. We met a few other times after this first gig and we carried on improvising together whenever we had the chance to. At some point we decided to record something so I moved to Bristol in October 2015 to spend time practicing and composing music together.”
The result is Kuro’s eponymous first outing, an elegantly sprawling and richly textured work of tumult and transcendence recorded by Joe Garcia (live sound wizard for OM and many others) in the duo’s home city. “An amazing sound engineer” enthuses Agathe of Garcia “He's got a very good sense of space with sound. We used different sources of mics, with a room recording that would link all the others and give a warm and open touch.”
A unique, richly atmospheric and largely improvisatory record that stands proud and defiant of pigeonholing, Kuro is neither elegant chamber music nor intense drone-noise, neither psychedelia nor spiritual jazz, yet with elements of all of the above- dwelling perhaps atop a psychic hinterland between the shamanic vortices of Ashtray Navigations, the wild extrapolations of Sun City Girls and the melancholic richness of The Dirty Three. Yet what comes across strongest of all is the original spark of the partnership, summoning altered states, meditative vibrations and internal narratives by the power of eight strings.
“We wanted to create a journey for the listeners, to create an inner cinema with emotional landscapes, old time cults and stories of lost sailors” reckons Agathe. Indeed, though voyage appears to be only beginning, such is its momentum that any adventurous and self-respecting psychonaut would be well advised to hitch a ride.