You are in a field. Where is not particularly important; perhaps you don’t know. Regardless, you’re not overly concerned. As unbeknownst to you as your surroundings may be, there exists a sense of security here – you know nothing threatening lurks nearby.
This is essentially how it feels to listen to the opening moments of Joseph Kamaru’s, better known as KMRU, Logue, his debut LP (or ‘compendium album’, as it features material he previously self-released now compiled for his new label Injazero Records). The young ambient musician splits his time between Berlin and his home of Nairobi, and has found himself uniquely positioned within his chosen field of expression. Expertly blending the most modern ambient sensibilities with his local cultural and musical traditions, he’s arrived with something both unique, valuable and immediate.
Not entirely removed from Brian Eno’s landmark On Land, the process began with field recordings, enveloped by improvisation: each and every moment of Logue refers to a particular time, place, or experience, composed of music written between 2017 and 2019. The lush natural mystery of the constantly building “Jinja Encounters” (just let that percussion wash over you), for example, was inspired by Kamaru’s first journeys outside of his native Kenya, all fleeting glances, new scents, and awe.
Next up, “OT” perfectly represents the diversity on display here, with its twinkling nature (and often joyous field recordings) belying the occasionally dark balance necessitated by experimentation at this level. Its softly throbbing textures might even remind you of Daft Punk’s Tron soundtracking at its best.
There’s a deft level of mastery here that is both quick and measured in revealing itself. KMRU’s knack for palatial drone is readily apparent, as is his ear for melody. But where his true power – and Logue’s greatest strength – lies is within his dumbfounding ability to combine his influences within a textured space all his own.
Picture the journey “A Meditation of Listening” takes you on: it opens with a sparse, pretty background reminiscent of the world created by Meitei on Komachi, but complete with measured found sound, before glimmering synths come into play, giving a feeling akin to being some winged insect flitting across an otherwise quiet landscape. Yet, by its end, it’s become something nearly alien, its patterns building into something swirling and almost intense, leaving behind this earthly coil entirely, all before settling into some icy, cavernous groove, with only the sound of water droplets and ominous sounds providing any sense of place. Again, this is all within one track, clocking in at under seven minutes. The amount of ground KMRU is capable of covering – comfortably, at that – without ever feeling he’s straining himself or the music itself is astonishing.
Logue, then, is an album of discoveries, both for the listener and the artist himself. This very nature creates a deeper sense of connection within the music itself. When one wades into the placid waters of “Und”, it doesn’t feel you’re doing it alone, you’re together in the experience, creator and awestruck visitor alike. It’s a special world that KMRU nearly seems to have stumbled upon within the album’s 41 minutes, but that’s merely appearance. The skill at work here disguises any sense of the surely painstaking process of nearing ambient perfection. So long as he maintains such a passion for adventure, KMRU is certain to continue arriving at inspired shores. We can only hope he continues to enjoy having us along.