K15/Culross Close - Volume 1 (Mother Tongue Records, 2020)
Adding further depth and intrigue to his beautiful discography, Kieron Ifill expands his world a little bit more with this uniquely brilliant slice of gold.
Alias have always represented the excitement of branching out into avenues fans may not usually associate with the existing creative outputs of a producer. For many, it's not enough to express themselves through one train of thought, a thread that remains universally singular, but instead they choose to diversify their tastes and musical outputs via the creation of new names or as part of a group, in order to fulfil themselves from an artistic stand point. Their interests may be wildly across the board, and providing a new name to release under allows for new styles and genres to be explored, all within their creative umbrella of releases and audial characteristics. The producers who stand tall in this regard always allow for these varying worlds to cross reference, feeding off and into each other as differing life forces, but unified by the creative minds who brought them into this world in the first place. Throughout history, we have seen countless artists going down this path of a multi-representation of their music abilities, where surprises and delights are waiting around every corner, all the time. The beauty in it all is experiencing these aliases for the first time, where your favourite producer goes out of their way to navigate music's rich context and bring forth new tunes that flip your expectations, and encourage you to do more and see music in new lights. What's even more wonderful is when people take the time to develop and honour these alternative sides to their sound, often looking to capitalise on their creative freedoms which feed into new veins of musical excellence that spring from their exploration of sound and interest. This kind of approach only endears us more to the artists behind it, as our musical interests begin to grow and expand so too does our adoration for producers and groups who also continually look to expand their musical universes, the alignment occurring so naturally over time. A narrative that can be shared, in some instances, and in many ways it makes people feel more involved, more invested, and that is a very special relationship to develop indeed.
For a fair while now, Kieron Ifill has been continually adding to and furthering his scope in such subtle yet brilliantly innovative ways. Using the realms of deep house as a guide, Ifill has added in his own touch to formulas that have paved the way for some fundamentally brilliant albums, that span a very broad range of styles and feels. His music very much blends and blurs significantly from release to release, with each record adding something more in which to endear yourself to his discography, where tenderness is paired with rhythm, poetic expressive keys groove along to energetic beats, or sultry beats interlude with driving technically brilliant key work. His technical skills are also something of a marvel, which allows for a real expressive delivery when it comes to tone and composition, with inter laying elements all effortlessly blending together as a soft, gently undulating musical landscape. Ifill has primarily released music via two alias, K15, which has seen the vast majority of his releases, and Culross Close, but interestingly there is plenty of interchangeability between the two trains of thought. Both aliases share commonality in regards to the light touch that is evident on every record Ifill has ever released, with elements of jazzy house and key work cropping up across both, and with these shared notions Ifill creates vast spaces which feel truly unique to both. Be it drawn out piano led ambient tracks, or expressive hip hop driven groovers, to light techno esq sequences that really lead you away, to full on jazz fusion, or the tender choppy house that he has made his own, all is catered for by Ifill in regards to his sound spectrum. Over time, this identity has only become more aligned with the man himself, the music he releases becoming more intrinsic with each record that gets pushed out, and in that regard you won't find anyone like him releasing what he does. Some of our favourites from his discography include, from the K15 catalogue, the 'Insecurities' EP from 2014; the superb 'Speed of Life' record from 2017, that is essential listening; the split 'A Learning Curve' EP with Mr. G; the superb 'Sunbeams' EP from 2018; the wonderfully deep and moving 'Fear/When It All Fades' single from 2018; and the fantastic 'Brighter/Darker' release from last year; A couple of brilliant mini-albums to check out from K15 include the endlessly moving 'Our Time Is Borrowed' EP, that is a truly emotional experience, which was released last year; and the superb 'Currently', that is a really groovy jazz hip hop vibe, which landed earlier this year. In relation to his Culross Close alias, we also have some very strong releases too, that include the jazz driven mini masterpiece that is 'Home', from 2018; the powerful 'Moments' 7'', that also arrived in 2018; and the incredible jazz fusion record that is 'Forgotten Ones', which landed last year. He also released an amazing record with Emeson Nwolie as Profusion, entitled 'Where Do I Begin?', which was released back in 2017, which we throughly recommend you checking out also. Ifill has plenty of room to accommodate space for new ideas, with the scopes and boundaries within his music always coming across as the possible always being achieved, but the possible in itself never quite being defined. His musical mind is one to marvel at, just in terms of his raw talent and ability to craft so many fundamentally interesting musical worlds. To dive back through his works is to see and experience so much of the best qualities of contemporary dance music, in that the themes shift within a pre-defined set of stylistic and rhythmic rules, but as the artist has set those boundaries very wide indeed, the abilities to conjure up and craft become that more beautiful and exceptional. Go check out his back catalogue immediately, its well worth your time.
And now we arrive at his latest single, where the stars align once more in a perhaps more obvious way; 'Elemental/Intrinsic Value', which is being released via Mother Tongue Records. On both sides we see the two realms that Ifill inhibits with his music, with his K15 moniker occupying side A and Culross Close on the flip, with both tunes truly demonstrating the man's talent and passion. Silk expansive soundscapes filled to the brim with contrasts between synth sequences and light jazz touches meet full on rhythmic jazz piano house, and we are all for it. A record that speaks so much with just two tracks, and that in itself is a real achievement. So lets take a dip!
'Elemental' kicks us off, as the light key sequence lightly permeates within a sea of delicate chords with twinkles of piano sparkling on top of it all. The overall picture painted is already a compelling melodic composition, with long lines allowing us to truly immerse ourselves in this deeply meaningful soundscape. The drums quietly abound within, emerging for a moment before retreating back into the depths, as the synth line suddenly swells to fill up the vast never ending view set out in front of us, which then leads into the drums and bass coming into view in their truest form. The tonal manner in which it all hangs together is something to marvel at, with this part of the track focusing on the more rhythmic features that this track is keen to flex enormously. This is allowed to flow on wards for a few runs, before the break down occurs once more, which then re introduces the key sequence from the intro, that adds further to the melodic journey we are undertaking with this absolutely gorgeous track. Once more, the jazz chords are allowed full reign, their presence a obvious yet very engrained element, never taking up too much space but acting as a real driving element in the track, bringing in other elements around it to move and sway in time and space. The groove we haven't really discussed yet, but the pulse on this track is something else, with the beat having a real swing to it, which counter acts perfectly with the delicacies that persist on top. The outro sees the synth line slowly descending away into the horizon, and we feel so fulfilled with that experience, damn. What a tune. Up next on the flip comes Culross Close with the track 'Intrinsic Value', and we begin out with the drums leading the way. Kicks and percussive elements feature on this deep expressive beat, which is quickly joined by the main melodic piano line and hi hats, that push the track forward into its main musical structure. The drums display a real sense of variety, with lots of little micro switches and changes occurring here and there, giving the track a feel of vitality, whilst on top the melodic features flux and shift with less rapidity, but instead continue to grow in relation to layers and tonal representation. The deep synth chord line, paired with the little key lines and progressions, all work together so intuitively to create a living, breathing world that sings so loudly and purely. The hallmark piano solo comes in towards the end, and just when we thought this track couldn't possibly display any more melodic development, Ifill shows us once again why he is the master at this kind of thing. Truly remarkable.
This record is pretty much a perfect representation of what you would expect from either K15 or Culross Close, and as a pairing the two tracks demonstrate the kind of world Ifill has been building throughout his career. What is wonderful to see is the shared qualities that feature on both tracks, such as the jazz tinged chords or the light piano solos, these hallmarks are what binds his musical threads together so wonderfully. Both tracks stand tall by themselves as brilliant pieces of music, but together they craft a mini narrative that is wonderfully reflective of Ifill's talents and visions. A narrative that we can all invest in due to its sheer brilliance, uniqueness, and as the title suggests, its intrinsic value. There's always scope in his world, and this record just continues to add to one of the most compelling narrative journeys in dance music. There will not be a better single all year.
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