Imagine if you will a boy growing up in a small, remote African village who's repeatedly exposed to the indigenous folk music played by the town's residents on thumb pianos and home-made string and percussion instruments. Then imagine that boy, now a teenager, absorbing the sounds of drum'n'bass, dub, garage, dubstep, and jungle as they make their way to him through an old radio, an experience that in turn inspires him to start creating his own music, tracks that naturally draw upon the sounds and styles he's absorbed throughout his short life.
While such a story is not literally Kimyan Law's, it seems like it very well could be, given the nature of the material captured on the Congolese/Austrian producer's debut album Coeur Calme. Without question, it's a remarkably sophisticated and mature collection for someone only nineteen years old. Listening to the album's dozen tracks, it comes as no surprise to learn that Law was recently short-listed for Best Newcomer Producer in the 2014 D&B Arena Awards.
“Mortal Life” eases the listener into the hour-long album arrestingly in the way it confidently combines slow, lulling rhythms and richly atmospheric sound design. In this opening set-piece, hushed voices, kalimbas, soulful vocal touches, and an imaginative array of percussive treatments coalesce to form an understated yet still haunting, funk-tinged overture. Law's bold fusion of African folk and drum'n'bass is showcased repeatedly on the album, and the arrangements likewise impress in the way he achieves balance between percussive elements, strings, voices, field recordings, and samples in these intricate productions. His tracks startle with an assurance one expects from a producer with years of production experience under his/her belt as opposed to someone still in his teens. As representative examples, the serpentine, garage-styled “Daimyo” and cinematic moodpiece “Copperclock” offer stunning displays of Law's talent for arranging disparate elements into compelling wholes.
While Law largely manages to subsume his influences, there are times when they come identifiably to the fore. The mournful “Ember,” for example, plays like an exercise in Kimyan Law trying to create a Burial track, while “Run Ames” oozes a soulful drum'n'bass vibe that might have you thinking of Calibre and his ilk. Such instances aside, what's more noteworthy is that such influences don't declare themselves more often. Instead, one comes away from Coeur Calme impressed by the highly evolved originality of Law's concept rather than hearing him as an overly derivative artist-in-the-making.