This is one of those albums that has just come from nowhere and hit me really hard… to the extent that a lot of truly remarkable releases from this year are struggling to get on my turntable… I just cannot get enough of ’11 43′. In actual fact ’11 43′ was released in 2017, but I’ve only come across it now, the lack of online information about it suggesting that there was very little publicity around it at the time of release. So for that reason I’m very much taking into my fold of great 2018 albums, so expect to see it again when I’m doing the round-ups later in the year.
I was vaguely aware of Kaos Karma’s first album ‘Deathology’ but only really in passing (I’ve since gone back to it and rather regretted not paying more attention at the time), which is the project of Frenchman Fabio Gilberti. ‘Deathology’ is a brilliant example of what I’ve seen called ‘Post-Blues’ which is one of those annoying genres that both mean something and don’t mean anything, I think that Kaos Karma prefer ‘No Blues’. At any rate this signifies that it is music that takes Blues as its starting point but infuses and twists it in ways that generates new ideas and approaches that are explored in a way that appeal to me very much. As such this album is something of an outlier for me, but one that I’ve taken to in a big way.
Opener ‘Blue Haze’ is a wonderfully opaque track which has a nice fresh edge to it. By this I mean that there is something quite familiar to it, but it comes at something of a jaunty angle, giving an new perspective and an ‘out there’ feeling. After that ‘Milonga’ is just stunning. Gilberti’s vocals are reminiscent of Nick Cave’s here singing in duet with the wonderful A Qui Avec Gabriel. Together they form a superb combination with a highly charged and darkly beautiful track.
The intensity is continued with ‘Dely Brown’ with its mixture of blues and contemporary urban music, all held together again by Gilberti’s vocal which he reminded me of The The’s Matt Johnson at his deepest. The combination of different musical styles being blended to create something unique and inventive. This continues with ‘Mabi’ with its simple repeating tune that brings some jazz and ‘chanson’ to the mix, a track that is more melancholic than intense.
Ending side one is ‘Tell Em’ a more upbeat track that drawn on dance tropes to provide something that really has you moving. The most strongly electronic track thus far it underlines the fact that no two tracks on this album are in any way the same, yet somehow are held together with a willingness to be different and push a few boundaries.
Side two begins with the title track which, perhaps unsurprisingly, is 11’43” long. This is a real epic track that begins at an intense level, vocal and saxophone interacting particularly well. Once again we are immediately confronted with a variation of approach from Gilberti and his, mainly, Japanese collaborators Makoto Kawabata (Acid Mothers Temple), Ryoko Ono (Sax Ruins), and the aforementioned A Qui Avec Gabriel. Together they string out a track that you can really lay yourself back into. The whispered vocals from A Qui Avec Gabriel and Ryoko Ono’s sax are particularly fine in a freaky mid-section that work so well over musician and techno DJ Pits Esb’ bass. Pits co-wrote the album having joined Kaos Karma in 2015 and his influence is all over this album. As you might expect from these collaborators the ’11 43′ fragments towards the end leaving me wanting to put it on all over again.
But before doing that ‘Tokyo’ pops up almost as an antidote to what has gone before. Less intense and more upbeat, this is another one that threatens to get you out of your seat and gets you moving. It’s one of those tracks that can lift you out of a mind mist just enough to allow reflection because, like the rest of the album, it is so wonderfully arranged. Last up is ‘Astral Assassin’ which is a more fractured and sinister piece that ends the album on a suitably nebulous note.
This is an album that seems to be getting attention by word of mouth, so I’m more than happy to add to this process. For me it’s one of those records that you get now and again that are utterly peerless, the combination of ideas and musicians just taking the whole thing to a different place… one that is new and hugely welcome. It has certainly found a place on my record rotation list, in fact it seems to be in the habit of jumping to the top on a regular basis and, in the final analysis, you can’t really say more than that.