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Album Review: Kyson – Blackstone

There couldn’t be a more suitable title for Kyson’s sophomore record than Blackstone. With its connotations of magma, rock and the fundamental elements of our planet, it perfectly reflects the salt-of-the-Earth approach adopted by Kyson here. Blackstone feels like a work of elemental simplicity – a series of raw, unfiltered imaginations of the natural world, punctuated by the rustle of samples and the producer’s reverb-laden vocals. Its eight original tracks feel like glacial, slow-moving dirges; but they never become funereal. Instead, they meld into an uplifting, life-affirming suite of songs rooted in organic forms; something like eating an ice-lolly in a Zen garden.

Opening on the brooding, delayed guitar chords of ‘Drain of the Red Sea’, Blackstone quickly welcomes one of its recurring themes into the fold: The pitter-patter of the outside world seeping into its sonic space. These sampled sounds resonate throughout the record, underpinning the tracks themselves with a sense of the pastoral and the analogue. They don’t so much define the songs as ornament them, in spite of how prominently they feature in the mix.

‘Remi’ begins Blackstone’s exploration of more conventional songcraft, while continuing the snail-like pace with which the album gently meanders along. Dominated by contorting synth drones panning in all directions, Kyson’s nonsensical vocals babble back and forth never quite accenting or directly contributing towards the overall feel of the piece.

‘Soul Person’, meanwhile, is on a slightly more ominous bent. It marks the first point at which Blackstone’s precious serenity is – at least partially – enveloped by darkness, uneasily shifting between pulsating chords and Kyson’s seraphic, auto-tuned vox. The rest of Blackstone follows similar paths; Kyson chooses to balance on the precipice between peaceful introspection and the odd moment of brooding self-questioning. Stylistically though, he fails to mold anything particularly unique or exciting from tried and tested forms.

Working through Blackstone from start to finish reveals a serious flaw in its minimal electronica: It pushes too hard for the listener’s attention, overstepping its bounds as ambient music. As a record, it feels too structured and engaging for background music but too amorphous for any listening with real focus. As the skewed balladry of ‘Ocean Tides’ rounds out Blackstone in typically understated fashion, it’s hard to feel either soothed or entertained; instead, a nagging sense of indifference begins to take hold.

- Alex Cull

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