Have you ever sat down and just drowned in thought? I’m not talking about the rushed, every minute-a-wasting kind of frantic thinking. I’m talking about the calm and serene type of thinking. The once-in-a-while drifting of the mind that leaves you staring at the ceilings and floors as if they are the heaven-and-Earth-themselves kind of thinking? Well, if you haven’t, or if you’ve had but would like to revisit that feeling then perhaps the latest offering, Music to Draw To: Satellites, from Kid Koala can give you a taste of that bliss.
As you comb through this record, you’ll find that time sort of just slips by. Every track flows, just on the periphery of your senses, supplementing your activity with a vacuous sound that dampens and blocks out the chaotic energies of a bustling world just beyond your cranium. In a sense this record is as sonically un-intrusive as they come. And the title of this new project gives little hints to the contents of the project at first glance.
When I asked Kid Koala why he chose the title for the album, he says, “I have in my collection a handful of ‘drawing records’. They’re the ones that I can put on repeat and not notice the hours passing. They’re the ones that kind of slow time down for me. I reach for those records when I’m finishing panels on a comic or shooting an animated film. I’ll seek out music that will keep you in some form of focus and zone. This is my attempt at making one of those ‘drawing records.'”
Indeed, the project, to me, is calming. It is a record whose tracks are content with capturing as little of your attention as possible, while being just present enough to be a listener’s musing.
When asked for three words to describe his new album, Kid Koala says, “Winter, theta states, meditative.”
Even the presence of singer Emilíana Torini was all in efforts to preserve tranquility throughout the record.
As Kid Koala himself puts it, “Emilíana has one of the best voices for this type of music in my opinion. Even when she’s singing whisper quietly, the amount of feeling she can get out of one syllable, it’s astonishing. I made these tracks in the winter. Many of them are very delicate, ambient and electronic. She’s just got one of those voices that suits the tone of the record perfectly.”
And frankly with Emilíana, I believe, you have the final component that comes to make up the aesthetics of this record. As one burns through this album, one is confronted with a chilly and tranquil coolness akin to having a bedroom in space or, as Kid Koala puts it, something that is distinctly wintery. This project also has a very distinctive soundtrack vibe, almost as if 2001 Space Odyssey continued to roll after the credits and was about the Starchild’s life on a farm located in the vast plains of space. And if this project were indeed the soundtrack for such a post-credit movie, it seems that all the Starchild would do for the duration of that film would be to stare at the endless stars circling above his farm house in space. Admittedly that sounds crazy. But it really is my attempt at putting into words the subtleness, serenity and yet comfort conveyed by this record in its entirety.
However, for fans who were hoping for something similar to Koala’s last LP, 12-Bit Blues, unfortunately, you will have to wait for when the temperature gets to adequate levels. When I asked Koala on this transition between his last LP and this one, he says, “I wouldn’t really compare them at all. This is not a follow up to that record. I’ve been doing a lot of composing for films in recent years, and this ‘Music To Draw To’ album series has more in line with that world. It’s all about a balance thing for me. In the summer I like to make loud and scratchy music, and the winter I like to make cold and quiet music! It’s that simple. There are times when you need music that excites, and there are times when you need music to calms. It’s really as natural as breathing. Nobody feels like partying all the time. That would be too predictable and boring. LOL!”
And whether one appreciate the aesthetics of this album as a descent into one’s dreams, ascension into the tranquility of space or just something of an absolute example of serenity, Music to Draw To: Satellites always seeks to be a record that grounds. Much like Koala’s philosophy, with regards to the ups-and-downs to his music, there is a sense that this LP is a return to simplicity – a project all about coloring within the lines. While artists are, now more than ever, moving to experiment with music, pushing the envelope of what is sonically expected, we have this LP to remind us momentarily of what a piece of music with a unifying theme ought to sound like. And, as such, to me, it is not a record that is loud, proud or wanting attention from the crowd but rather a project which reaffirms many of our expectations about music. It’s a project that is familiar and does not try to be what it is not.
And much like the satisfying cinematic conclusion of Music to Draw To: Satellites, I shall end my piece with a quote from Kid Koala. Here he shares with us something that’s just been on his mind.
“There’s a bit of a space theme to this album. I’ve always been fascinated with space. My high school physics teacher told the class once that when you look up at the night sky, most of the light you’re seeing left those stars ages before you were born. So all we see up there is the past… every time you look up, you’re looking back in time. I find that comforting”.
And perhaps as a post script, I recommend everyone go out and see Kid Koala in concert. While this record did not capitalize on his skills as a turntablist, there are certainly opportunities to do so. While I was unaware of this, he has some very interactive and experimental shows, where one can also experience Kid Koala’s turntabling and experience turntabling for themselves, that are worth the visit.
As Kid Koala himself recalls something that he initially hated about one of his new projects. “Um, tuning 50 turntables before each show! LOL! We’re doing these Satellite Turntable Orchestra shows where we have turntable stations set up in the audience and we’ve cut harmonized tone records for each station so that the audience can help us create these ambient pieces live. It’s really a very beautiful and powerful sound. But the stations need to be recalibrated before each show, which is a bit of a tedious process, but really, the sound and experience that it makes in the room is worth it to me!”
Kid Koala and his Satellite Turntable Orchestra project is at the Phi Centre (407 St Pierre St.) on February 1-4. There are early (7 p.m.) and late (9 p.m.) shows each day. Tickets cost $25.19 and can be purchased HERE.