Reviewed by Steve Palmer
It's not often you hear an album that you just don't want to end; well, this is the case with KK's new album Telescopes, which is as cosmic and lyrical album as I've heard in a long time. KK has worked with the likes of Eno and Bjork, so he brings us his music from high up. Pianos flicker, synthesizers rustle, percussion tinkles, strings swell, and over all this KK himself speaks and sings, sounding remarkably like Green of British band Scritti Politti. Many of these songs drift and sigh like The Beloved in interstellar space.
The story is of the vast number of planets, stars and galaxies in our universe, a tale told with a real sense of melody and emotive underlying chords. The album opens with the synths and vocal samples of "Dewdrop" before morphing into the first song proper, "Dust," that at once showcases KK's songwriting talent; a gorgeous melody and a great mix of male/female vocals. "Sol 3" finds KK speaking about the vastness of our universe over piano and melancholy synths, before the track jumps into "Magic Spell," another superbly constructed song with male/female vocals, harp and glockenspiel sounds underpinning tales of stars - and if you didn't know this was KK you really would believe it was Green Gartside.
Next up is "Andromeda," an instrumental of chugging bass and choir samples, before we head into "Infinity" with its Orb-like astronaut and voice samples, and swirling synths. "Codebreaker" brings us down to Earth with ethnic samples and sounds, and lyrics evoking the spices and sounds of the mystic East. Then we are into the dreamy piano chords of "Ancestor Simulation," another spaced-out instrumental, that concludes with one of the most lovely themes I've ever heard, played on a trumpet-like synth with accompanying voice, percussion and choir samples. Simply spine-tingling, and for me the highlight of the album. Next up is "Paradise Found," the introduction of which would not have been out of place on a Gong album, but which moves into another melodious song, this time underpinned by guitars and rustling drums. "Pale Blue Dot" begins with evocative global voices conjuring up the unity of different races of humanity, then morphs into breathy vocals and interstellar slide guitar. The album ends with "Crunch" and "Voyager", which return us to intergalactic spoken-word speculation and melancholy synths. The closing seconds evoke the Voyager spacecraft speeding out into space...
Mixed into one too-short album, this album deserves real success. Though it is original and ambitious, it is the strength of the tunes and their arrangements that set it apart from similar works. And while it may sit at the edge of the progressive rock universe, if you can imagine a blissed-out Vulgar Unicorn or a particularly spacey Orb album - with lyrics - you would love this. Alternatively, if you just appreciate crafted songs and unfettered cosmic imagination you should check this wonderful album out. You can get more information at www.21stcenturygenius.com.
So, I didn't want this one to end. So I played it once again...