Tone 85 | KMRU ‘Natur’

Available on Bandcamp to pre-order now
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.