Tone 85 KMRU – ‘Natur’

Available on Bandcamp to pre-order on Friday 5th July 2024
Release date: 26th July 2024

Track Listing: [CD – 1 track – 52:38]
1. Natur – you can hear an extract here

All tracks written, mixed and produced by KMRU
Mastered by Simon Scott at SPS
Photography & Design: Jon Wozencroft

When KMRU relocated to Berlin from Nairobi, he was immediately fascinated by the German capital’s relative silence. Back home, he was surrounded by sound: the omnipresent churr of birds and insects, the chatter of passers-by, and the electrical smog belched out by criss-crossing power lines and roaring transformers. In Berlin, this noise was muzzled; pedestrians wandered the streets with headphones in, barely communicating, while electrical cables were hidden away underground, and wildlife retreated from the imposing, concrete jungle. KMRU compares this observation with his visual experiences. Acclimatizing to life in Western Europe, he realized that night, a dusky blue-black lit up by streetlights and shops, offered little contrast with day. Nighttime in Kenya felt more tangible, somehow. After 6PM, when the sun sets, even the dim glow of a screen can dazzle the eyes, which must quickly adapt to the conditions. And as anyone who’s closed their eyes while listening to music will know, the ears also adjust when visibility is impaired, enhancing even the tiniest sounds. So KMRU used this phenomenon to inform ‘Natur’, a billowing long-form narrative that blurs the audible spectrum with an imperceptible sonic universe, contrasting cacophonous electromagnetic soundscapes with more familiar and grounding natural sounds.

The piece was composed in 2022, and since then KMRU has made it a live staple, tweaking and reshaping it as he performed on tour with Fennesz, and with the London Contemporary Orchestra at Southbank Centre. “I became it,” he says. “I merged with it on a performance level.” The experience allowed KMRU to sculpt not only the album’s crucial dynamics, but its philosophy. Following up records like 2020’s acclaimed, field recording-rooted ‘Peel’ and last year’s synthetic, ethereal ‘Dissolution Grip’, KMRU makes a decisive step forward. ‘Natur’ is KMRU’s most uncompromising work to date, crackling to life from dense clouds of static and intimidating, dissonant drones. Using electromagnetic microphones, he uncloaks the commotion hidden by the digital era’s ambiguous stillness, juxtaposing roaring, mechanical growls with microscopic glitches and tranquil, electrical wails. When environmental recordings do appear, they’re used as transitions between the thickets of harsh noise; sometimes hard to identify, they subconsciously remind the listener that behind the wall of sound there’s a natural world in constant communication, continually adapting to the fluctuating ecosystem.

KMRU sees ‘Natur’ as a way to reconsider what technology actually is and how it changes our perception of reality. This can be abstract, or more basic – like wearing rubber soled shoes to walk on asphalt, or using a leaf to drink water in a swamp. “Nature is connected with technology, and we’re so connected with nature that we adapt,” he says. “It’s like being blind, but still seeing.” On ‘Natur’, KMRU allows us to visualize a concealed landscape, one that’s teeming with life and in dialog with mechanization.

Reviews:

The Wire (UK):

‘Natur’ consists of a single piece derived from Kamaru’s experiments with electromagnetic frequencies. Evoking the work of Christina Kubisch, the piece reflects on the voices hidden inside our urban infrastructure and electronic devices. Static noise gives way to unexpected harmonies, rattling bass and birdsong. “The whole album is based on this recording I did with an electromagnetic microphone. It’s an interesting project because I performed it live for 2 years,” he says. Kamaru met Touch’s Mike Harding when on tour with Fennesz in the US, back in 2022, but the process to get the composition ready took its time. I ask how it feels to arrive here, considering that pivotal train journey in Kenya and the influence of Chris Watson, as well as all the other artists who have contributed to the label’s legacy. “Touch is a ‘listening’ label….They took a whole year just listening to the record and I appreciate that. I feel like it’s the perfect place for this kind of work”. [Ilia Rogatchevksi, feature June ’24]

Igloo Magazine:

The listener is transported in a rolling ambient vastness connected to natural elements and morphed field recordings, for a breathing, lively and emotional embrace which progressively reaches a mesmerizing climax.

Kamaru and I must say probably the most stupendous successful story in the latest development of electronic ambient music. In less than five years Kamaru obtained high praises from major indie labels in the place (Editions Mego, Mute, Touch) reaching a position which makes him a dignified leading figure in intricate and intimate electronic music with a drone flavors.

I’ve rarely seen the reputation of a sound producer edified so quickly in the musical league. It would be definitely interesting to grab some infos from Kamaru himself to know more about his musical trajectory and to understand better what makes his production a strong asset for nowadays and future of adventurous electronic music with a dense chilling impulse. KMRU is a project which is quite inevitable for those who browse new materials and new sound signatures in the ambient (at large) galaxy. KMRU also collaborated with a handful of numerous experimental music and ambient artists, including Seefeel but also Abul Mogard (I actually discovered his music through this specific collaboration back in 2020 for the label Vaagner).

Soberly entitled Natur is welcomed by the emblematic Touch imprint for a beautifully conceived/packaged edition. Natur is built as one extended piece processed as an assemblage of micro-sounds, abstract noises, and sinuous sound waves intertwined with the sonic background. The general tendency makes it intellectually meditative but less accessible than his previous release Dissolution Grip (OFNOT, 2023). An almost fuzzy feeling rises at the surface, especially during the first 15 minutes of the album then the listener is transported in a rolling ambient vastness connected to natural elements and morphed field recordings, for a breathing, lively and emotional embrace which progressively reaches a mesmerizing climax. Micro noises are always rampant but without being that harsh. The ending almost offers a cerebral mantra-like and spaced-out reverbed ambience to connect with the cosmos and universe as a whole. A mysteriously rumbling, cryptical and ascetic musical journey to lift the spirit.

Natur is highly recommended to followers of Touch music (notably with artists such as Jana Winderen for the dynamic communication between sound mapping / sound ecology with sonic sound spectralism) but it can also seduce lovers of contemporary minimalism with a radical droning edge such as Tony Conrad, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Kevin Drumm, and Ellen Fullman. [Philippe Blache]

Boonkat (UK):

KMRU’s most visceral and satisfying full-length, ‘Natur’ is a departure from his more pastoral, drone-based work, tweaking invisible electromagnetic squeals and rumbles into searing noisescapes and evocative orchestral moans. Seriously elevated gear, essential listening for anyone into Christina Kubisch, Fennesz or Kassel Jaeger. When he was working on ‘Natur’ back in 2022, KMRU found himself hung up on the difference in noise between Berlin where he now lives, and Nairobi where he grew up. At home, he was in a wide open, chaotic landscape where whirring generators were swallowed into a din of natural sounds; in Germany meanwhile, it felt manicured – nature was hidden behind perfectly sculpted streets and tower blocks, as if sound had been internalised. He reflects this reality by exposing the invisible, using specialist microphones to record the electromagnetic din that’s constantly buzzing around all of us.  It’s a nicely paced, cautious journey, introducing the soundscape on the bone-rattling ‘Natur 1’ as a sequence of static-drenched, dissonant transmissions before adding a level of order on ‘Natur 2’. Here, his vision begins to take shape: clouds of white noise part to reveal silence, and the unsettling feedback squeals begin to form harmonies. But KMRU never dips into what might be described as ambience; his most full-on deployment to date, he uses the dynamic intensity of extreme noise to help characterize his theme, shocking us into a realization that we’re surrounded by constant electronic chatter. And after reaching an ear-numbing, bass-heavy crescendo, he pulls back a little on ‘Natur 3’, mixing subtle environmental sounds into the insectoid glitches and electrically-charged fizzes. Using flute-like synthesized dips and wails, KMRU creates a bizarre, sci-fi tinted atmosphere, using his unique perspective to step away from the genre’s fantasy orientalisation towards a prophetic inside-out view of a possible global future. It all comes to a head on the epic 20-minute closing track ‘Natur 5’; where birdsong has evolved into a cybernetic churr, into melancholy whines that slip and slide alongside powerful, punctuating bass thumps. He strips each sound for parts, pulling out the low end and letting the electriity buzz to the surface once again. It’s powerful material that works as a neat thematic companion piece to Christina Kubisch’s relatively sedate electromagnetic symphony ‘Stromsänger’.