Fewer samples and more subtlety, intertwined with the melodic vocals of Icelandic singer Emilíana Torrini, help Kid Koala create a very different album from his previous releases. Koala is a Canadian-born DJ and graphic novelist who gained recognition for his unique use of turntables and alternative sound. His work with Deltron 3030 and The Gorillaz earned him more hip-hop recognition.
On Music To Draw To: Satellite he still uses this method, but in a new forum. Instead of a glitchy upbeat album with heavy blues samples like we’ve previously heard, this one draws more on subtlety and minimalism to create a cosmic sound.
With far fewer samples, the sonic focus is with the drum machine, acoustic guitar, turntables and the powerful vocals of Torrini. On other albums, we’ve heard Koala make boisterous and successful attempts to repurpose Delta blues music into a more electronic sound. On Music To Draw To: Satellite, Koala provides a perfect soundtrack to the cosmos as he wraps the vocals of Torrini over ambient drum beats and melodic acoustic guitar riffs.
On “Photons” he begins with a soft strumming of a harp and layers electronic piano keys and turntable notes on top. Without vocals, the subtlety of each note grasps the listener tighter and tighter.
On a three-song suite called “Transmission,” Koala presents celestial interludes during this journey through space. All three tracks are short, have minimal vocals and play on this theme of a space age sound.
“The Darkest Day” shows the most growth for Koala as an artist. He has clearly moved away from the hip-shaking music of his past releases, giving birth to a more ambient and individualistic sound. The track begins with brooding, distorted electronic piano keys, as Terrine slowly hums vocals. “All the thoughts live in a maze up here,” she sings as the notes reverberate.
Music To Draw To: Satellite shows a boldness to experiment while still maintaining Kid Koala’s trademark ability to use turntables as a pivotal instrument in his music.
Follow columnist Ian Firstenberg at Twitter.com/IanFirstenberg.