K.Mo feat. Byron The Aquarius - Space Funk EP (Wayout Records, 2021)
Producer and DJ James Kumo continues onwards in his quest for highly perfected House and Techno grooves with yet another stunning collection of cuts, with the title track featuring the immeasurable talents of a certain Byron the Aquarius.
The immediacy in which you connect with a particular artist's new record is often determined by the relationship the release has with their previous works, and in many cases the connection is established promptly due to the ease in which we are able to slide right into proceedings. The notion of creating audial narratives throughout a discography is something that we love to explore here at EG, and in many cases the music we review arrives to us as an accumulation of so many amazing previous efforts that mean we feel drawn into the world right from the offset. The characteristics of a discography are often drawn from the consistency in technique and flavour, but when you throw an elasticity into the mix that means we always find the time to grow and expand, there is even more of a draw for us to keep going with the artist, to continue to be delighted by their music, and to forever be intrigued by what might come next. There are plenty of incredible threads to cling on to in the realms of House and Techno in the contemporary era, where producers have spent a great deal of time getting to know their craft along with having a strong as hell understanding of their creative boundaries, be it ones set in stone or indeed ones that have the ability to morph and develop as time passes by. It's an approach that serves to craft an audial identity that moves with the times as much as it possesses an aura of familiarity - key features that remain throughout as anchoring mechanisms for new and exciting elements to revolve around. It's enough to get us exciting right from the off, as we meander and dip through a new set of tracks that do much to further the artist's own narrative but also our relationship with their music, creating a two-way street of feeling and meaning that never stands still but merely abounds and moves onwards. It's a story to hold in your hands, a thread that gives over enormously to both us on a personal level but also to the wider consciousness, providing a narrative feel to proceedings that merges with the consistencies that bind music together but placing a great deal of emphasis on adding something meaningful to the ongoing dialogue. It says a lot about a producer when they can consistently add to their audial narrative, where keys and drums occupy the same frequency as the creative outlook, with the overarching feel one of pure bliss across all the spectrum, no matter where you end up looking at. It's intimate, it's emotive and it's engrossing, a kind of sound that goes the extra milage on the dancefloor where you move just that little bit harder and smile just that little bit longer, but it also taps into a special place indeed when it comes on at home. It's a process that wraps around you in every sense of the word, a wondrous organic flow that provides so much over to us that we knew we wanted but also the little things that we never knew we needed, and as a fair amount of dance music comes to us without vocals it's often the melodics and the rhythms that convey a sense of mood. That mood becomes the defining characteristic of an artist's work, and people will flock to those who provide over the most immediate and complex of moods, the ones where hearts and minds are equally catered for, as we groove and move into the summer skies or the deep embrace of the winter. Either way, we get involved, and that only comes from music that remains inherently inviting.
These kinds of values are inherently evident in the music of James Kumo, who since 2008 has released some utterly sublime House and Techno that has always provided a sense of immediacy and warmth to all that happen to come across it. Active since the early 90s as a DJ, Kumo has since turned his attentions to productions, which have taken on a wonderful sense of progression since his debut back in 08', with his initial productions focused more so on Techno, Tech House and Minimal, before his recent launch of his Wayout label turning the attentions towards soulful Deep House and a number of releases under the K.Mo name. It's a transition that showcases his wide reaching interests in regards to making music, with both sides of his sound crafted with equal amounts of love and affection along with a knack for displaying peerless techniques in regards to sound design and mood. Kumo has seemingly taken much care and thought to how the ebbs and flows of a discography can translate into a ultra-refined sound that always finds scope to grow and develop, as throughout his career he has dabbled in numerous styles that have always looped back to a set of characteristics that keep us very close to the heart of it all. It's this vision for where the music begins and where it continues to develop that has really aligned listeners to his music, with the sounds offered over to us deeply intriguing and filled to the brim with emotion, along with offering up all manner of immaculate textures that never remain stagnant but merely evolve and flourish as time passes by. This dual focus of technicality and textural progression help to provide a deeply engrossing feel to his music, where we as listeners are very much invited to get involved in the many layers that slide and dip in and around the core foundations, and that is truly special indeed. It's a journey that remains noteworthy on many levels, not just in the contents but in the essence that Kumo has curated over his many releases, where the threads that bore fruit back in 08' have sprung into multiple lines of inquiry that flow through all that he has to offer, from the rollers to the groovers to the razor sharp expressions, there's everything here we need to fuel our deepest desires and our most adventurous moments. There's plenty of moments to cover from the James Kumo discography, with our favourites including both volumes of 'Kumomusic', which represent some of the best driving melodic techno you will ever set eyes upon, with the volumes arriving in 2008 and 2009 respectively; the stunning Detroit Techno vibes that unravel from the aptly named 'Space Dancer' record, which arrived from the stars in 2009; the vibrant and ultra expressive tones found on 'The Rex' EP, which landed in 2010; and finally, both his releases from the [K:Music] imprint, 'Yellow' and 'Drifter', which landed in 2015 and 2018 respectively. From the K.Mo name, some records to highlight include the wonderful 'Vision LP', which showcases Kumo's new House leaning sound in all it's glory, with the record arriving in 2020; the beautifully playful feels of the 'Played EP', which features a stellar remix from Larry Quest, with the record arriving in 2020 also; the melodically diverse and rhythmically excellent 'Dancing and Trancing' release, which also arrived last year; and finally, be sure to check out both the KMusic Trax releases so far, which feature a fair few of Kumo's own productions. In all, Kumo has led quite the musical career up to this point, one which has pointed in numerous directions in a quest to achieve sonic and textural perfection, both of which are achieved time and time again through his varying releases. We talked about immediacy at the start of this review, and about how dynamism within discographies can lead to connections being formed with whoever happens to come across it, and Kumo's music is inherently interlinked with our sensibilities and the aims we set aside for good Dance music. It's bold, it's melodically pure, it's cutting edge and it's incisive, all the while providing us with a warmth that is incredibly hard to turn down and deny, and that is a very special feeling indeed. Be sure to check out his excellent previous works, trust us when we say you won't be disappointed, not one bit.
And now we arrive at his latest offering, 'Space Funk', which arrives via the Wayout imprint, and oh boy are we in for a treat on this one. As ever the music greets us with a broad smile, a palette of simmering colours light up the room in which we find ourselves, as ever unravelling chordal arrangements and beautifully weighted drumming patterns intermingle in a swirling pot of vibrancy and feeling. It's an accumulation of much of the work Kumo has put out over the past few years, the icing on the very impressive cake that seemingly is able to fed anyone who comes across it looking for audial nourishment, and it's what we have come to expect from Kumo and his wonderful music. Not only that, but one of the powerhouses of modern day house Byron the Aquarius joins in on the fun with an incredible performance on the keys (as per usual), and it really just hammers home just how good Kumo is at furthering his sound with a little help from a contemporary legend. So, without further delay, lets dive right into this house laden gem....
Up first comes the title track, which features Byron the Aquarius on keys, and we are greeted with the kicks and hats to get us going. Their arrangement provides plenty of space for melodic elements to slide into view, and this occurs as the bass line moves into the picture to provide that underbelly of funk, and before long the first key sequence flickers into view as the drums begin to grow arms and legs with additional hats and congas. The melodic layering is pulled off very well indeed, with deep chordal explosions carrying themselves across the spectrum as a foil to the intricate key lines that weave their way around the drumming pattern, with textural sweeps adding much to the momentum. The drifting feel of the keys helps to provide a cosmic vibe across the board, with the swirling arpeggios doing much to fuel the perception of floating through outer space. The addition of further pads into the mix does much to add scale to proceedings, with another textural sweep layering itself over the strata to help the momentum keep on keeping on, with little dips in energy seeing the drums continually morphing through differing lines. The way in which all the differing structures and segments shift from one to the other is very impressive to be a part of, with the arpeggio key lines sewing it all together alongside the bass line, and these anchors help to ground the brilliance in both our world and one that seems very far away indeed. One of the finest house cuts of the year, this one, simply glorious. Up next comes 'Moon Light Shuffle', and this one begins off with a slightly denser drumming structure than the previous cut. The kicks grow in volume as time passes by, with light percussive elements found throughout that almost have a semi melodic feel to them, and before long the keys start to grow into the mix in the lightest and most fascinating of ways. Their distance presence begins to move closer and closer to us, as we become bound into the welcoming waves of it all, with pads being thrown into the mix that only add further fuel to the momentum going forwards. it's an incredibly delicate progression, one that beguiles at every turn as we keep on looking over the expanse being presented to us, with the complexity of it all only increasing as time goes on and on, as textured sweeps continue to do their bit in ushering the composition onwards. Elements move in and around the core with a deft touch, as further pads intermingle in the backdrop to provide a sway like feel, the track's embrace doing much to continually lift us off our feet and into the stratosphere, with nothing but an expanse of blue to accompany our toes. The rising organ solo climaxes then plateaus into the most wondrous expulsion of energy you are ever likely to hear, with the notes dipping and diving around the foundation with a gleeful expression all over it's face, with our hearts and minds completely on board. We could have this on for a long, long time. Pure bliss.
To wrap things up, we have 'Inner Soul', and this one kicks off with the horizon line pads to get us going. They go through a couple of sequences before the kicks arrive to lift us off our feet, with further percussive elements coming in to join the party, with the immediate outlook one of deep mystique but also a wonderful presence that remains eager to pick us up and knock us into touch. The textural additions on top do much to keep the progression going on strong, with the vocal samples giving the track a real Balearic vibe, and as we close our eyes that's exactly the kind of space we imagine ourselves in - one of sunny shores, shady alcoves and crisp blue waters. The chordal progression holds it's own as a piano line adds further flavour to the emotive side of things, as the drums do much to combine with their elegance, with the percussive structure given plenty of time around the mid way section of the track to show off it's chops. The keys start to make an appearance soon after, with the piano leading the way to take us into a soothing state of euphoria, with distant key lines and the vocals doing much to keep us locked into the sways of it all. It's a wonderful ending to a record that oozes audial class, where consistency is measured in the total morphology of the tracks being presented, and where melodic flourishes linger long in the memory.
When you leave a record feeling like you have experienced everything it has to offer, it truly is a special feeling, and that is something which Kumo achieves here in spades. From the off we are greeted to his customary brilliance when producing house music, but like with much of his music there is something always around the corner than will immediately tantalise, and on every cut here we experience a differing side to his sound that never fails to impressive. Bryon the Aquarius seems very well suited to Kumo's soundscape, and his performance on the opening number is extraordinary, with the other two tracks adding further dynamism to the record both in terms of tone and style. Finally, the intimacy of all the tracks is so warm, with the listener placed somewhere between the bass and the drums as a cascade of keys unfurl above, taking us far beyond the clouds but still in sight of the earth below, as we feel the embrace of the music on all sides. A wonderful piece of music, and certainly one of our favourites of 2021.
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