My first review request direct from an artist; debut(?) EP from folktronica artist Kurt Andrew, Souvenirs.
I like getting requests. I do, it’s flattering. I like getting recommendations as well. Except…I sort of don’t. With both of them I always feel pressured; someone has taken the time to think about me and suggest some music for me to listen to. Often it’s music that the individual in question likes and thinks I’ll like, sometimes it’s just “here, let me give you some music”. In either case I always feel like I need to like the music they’re giving me, or at least try to play it up and show it in a good light. Sometimes I really like the music and know I don’t need to worry about lying, but sometimes I don’t.
I guess I’m trying, in a polite way, to say that I don’t really enjoy Kurt’s music, and that makes me feel like a dick. Kurt himself has pointed me towards his music so that I might review it; admittedly the purpose of a review is to analyse the good and bad sides of an album objectively, but there’s something about being handed the music by the artist and then turning around and saying you don’t like it to the Internet.
The music itself is actually quite interesting; self-defined as being a darkwave/folktronica fusion, a descriptor that isn’t far from the truth, I’ve not heard anything quite like it. It wraps acoustic guitar progressions around plenty of glitchy, choppy electronic beats while Kurt croons in the background. It’s a curious sound, managing to sound both simultaneously modern in its production whilst also holding on to quite an 80’s vibe thanks to its darkwave and lo-fi influences. It’s an intelligent sound, but in places (“The Voyage”) the glitch overtones start to become quite obnoxious and overbearing and as a result the coherency of the music breaks down. It’s a bit messy, a bit chaotic, but in a clearly deliberate and organised way.
Really my biggest disappointment with this EP is the vocals. At first I was really interested; the title track opens the EP to some decent keyboards, guitar and distant lo-fi vocals, like an acoustic Matthew Dear or something. The writhing electronic sequences, the instrumentation and vocals just all slott together nicely. As “The Traveler” chases it up, however, I can’t help but feel disappointed; the beats are non-progressive and quite uninspiring, and when the vocals come to the fore they have a flat, bordering spoken-word, delivery. It’s not inherently bad in itself, but I feel like they could have more energy. “The End” has a similar problem melodically but also with Kurt pushing his voice in strange ways, almost forcing out the lyrics. Through one listen I was skipping through this track for a particular section and I had to check the timer to see if it was actually working, it is disappointingly “same-y” throughout.
For a debut I think it could be worse, a lot worse. I think this darkwave/electroacoustic/folktronica fusion does have some potential but I definitely think it needs some refining, making the melodies a bit more thoughtful and balanced. There’s some inconsistency here (to be expected, not holding it against him) but I think there’s also an inherent musical understanding and talent here. Not really my cup of tea in its current state, but certainly not terrible.