Is this the soundtrack to music collapsing under the weight of its own accumulated past? Or an energetic, anything goes maximalism , offering a much-needed jolt to tired synapses? Kayaka’s Sonic Kitchen could be both, or neither. But it’s fun, kind of, and its twists and turns are a groovy path down which open-eared explorers should wander. Imagine all those 90’s sampledelic turntablist albums with the annoying bits weeded out and their often rather limited source inputs widened to include cod-classical piano, crunchy noise and enigmatic drone, as well as all the usual jazz-electronica-soundtrack suspects. Then chuck it all in the back of a van and blow the bloody doors off.
Sonic Kitchen is only the latest step in an eccentric, evolving discography for Kayaka that takes in rough-cut electronics, bass clarinet improvisations, mashups of children’s songs and field recordings from the Amazon basin. Born in Tokyo and based in Berlin and London, her work is consistent only in its homespun, rather ramshackle feel, with looped sonics often piled on top each other and colliding with all sorts of samples and found sound crammed in too.
Have a listen to album opener Dream’s breakbeat-y judder to get an idea of what’s going on, the crisp digital sheen of its drum machine loops balanced by the precarious totter of its arrangement, like Timbaland in high heels carrying a tray of drinks through a crowded boozer. Hungarian Rhapsody teams expansive classical piano surges with odd knockings and woody thunks, which should sound rubbish but actually gel perfectly, the percussive layer adding a nice sense of intimacy, as if we’re eavesdropping on some domestic interior. It may be a mess, but it’s an artful mess. In fact, it’s not really a mess at all. Even initial listens to the nine tracks here render some melodic or rhythmic delights, as in the quirky hop of Piper’s Rats, where skipping rhythms escort soft-hued synths and sampled voices to the dance, and subsequent immersion in tracks like Tropic of Cancer reveal the careful construction hidden beneath the clattering heaps.
Sonic Kitchen wears its experimentation lightly without compromising its intent. You might think its confectionary, but it’s a full meal rather than an empty sugar high. Apparently, much of the material on the album comes from 2013 but was never released. Respect to Kayaka and label Adaadat for shepherding these unhinged compositions into the public arena.