“…just as I started to think it was going to be similar to the previous tracks, it flew off into a totally different direction”
I will start with an anecdote: KUNGS is not a new discovery, well actually it is, well maybe it’s not. I will explain.
Almost a year ago I heard a track on the radio which to me had the feeling of summer about it. You know what I mean right? That song that makes you think the cold days of winter are way behind you and the sun is on its way? The unfortunate fact with this was that I never caught the name of the song or the artist so had little, or as it turned out no chance of finding it. To be honest, I don’t know how I actually found it, however I’m very pleased that I did as it opened my ears to the rest of KUNGS album, LAYERS. In short, the album title kind of says it all: rhythmic and melodic ideas layered over each other. However, there is a bit more to it than that.
The opening track, ‘Melody’, seems to set up the main themes for the tracks that immediately follow, including ‘This Girl’ which was my mystery track. The use of a guitar hook in ‘Melody’ is also one of my favourite features of ‘This Girl’, and they are certainly very similar, creating that same summery feel. Equally, the way this hook is combined with the trumpet and bass riffs in the form of a call and response in the hit single, demonstrates how this relatively simple idea, along with a repetitive drum ostinato (which is at times just a bit too repetitive), can be creatively deployed to form the basis of KUNGS tracks.
It is with welcome relief that Track 4 (You Remain) and Track 5 (Freedom) are a little more laid back and focus more on melodic content that percussive drum beats. This can be heard in the greater use of both acoustic and electric guitars alongside vocal melodies. In truth, I found it hard not to smile at the placement and use of the vocal effects and the bluesy rock, almost improvisatory guitar solos that happen within ‘Freedom’ as though it is yet again an expression of the title. Track 6, ‘When You’re Gone’ also uses the acoustic guitar in a similar way, however the best thing about it has to be the whistled melody. Apologies now if you decide to listen to it, it will be stuck in your head!
Reaching the halfway point in the album, I actually thought for a few seconds that it had jumped back to the first track as the opening bars are essentially based on the same chord pattern. Thankfully though, just as I started to think it was going to be similar to the previous tracks, it flew off into a totally different direction. The use of similar production methods combined with new ideas brings a familiar but very welcome change. It has to be said that in places, Track 7 (Wild Church) almost feels nostalgic with musical nods to the synthesized sounds of the 80’s and 90’s.
Fortunately, the second half of the album continues to bring welcome surprises throughout and in the case of ‘Bangalore Streets’, you are transported to India through the use of female vocals provided by Freia and a wonderfully sampled bansuri flute melody which gives it a sense of authenticity. Equally the final two tracks, featuring the vocals of Richard Judge on ‘Crazy Enough’ and Rae Morris on ‘Trust’ show just how versatile KUNGS is as an artist and a producer.
If this is a only hint of what is to come from this 20 year old, I certainly look forward to rediscovering his music in the future.
You can find out more about KUNGS here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/a125cd83-a379-4935-a7ec-beaa778bad70