Trip hop music has absolutely exploded in the last three or four years, probably due in most part to Portishead’s rise in success and fan base. With the emergence of artists’ such as Emancipator, Bonobo, and The Flashbulb, the trip hop community has been spoon fed album after album of downtempo music. It’s no wonder that we are seeing a surge of young, talented musicians who are able to make massive beats in their own bedroom. Years ago, it seemed like this kind of thing would be unimaginable but with technology at our fingertips and for a cheaper price then ever before, who’s to say you can’t install some music production software on your desktop and start making badass beats?
This seems to be the case for Kinack, a self-taught producer from California who eventually moved to Colorado. Kinack, known by his birth name Zack Slavkin, dropped out of high school when he was 18 years old in order to travel the world instead. Along the way of his traveling, Slavkin began recording music. He used nature as his true inspiration and with the help of some software, he put together his debut LP released on January 7th, 2012.
For his debut record, entitled Ondas, Slavkin takes all of his feelings and visions of the beautiful nature around us and simply puts it into musical style. I imagine that much of the album was recorded with the idea of flowing rivers, waiving trees in the wind, falling snow, and breathtaking waterfalls all being enhanced as primary images. Obviously this may change from listener to listener but that is the best part of electronic, instrumental music. For the most part, it’s all very speculative. One can put his own two cents into the meaning of any track because it simply is open to interpretation. Even though Slavkin most likely had a genuine idea behind his tracks, the music can take on a life of it’s own for any listener who wants it.
Track for track, this record plays out similarly to an Emancipator album where we have these electronic samples played behind some jazz guitar or string arrangements from electric violin. Piano makes great cameos on almost every track while the drums stick heavy beats and create this very innate feeling, almost like being secluded in the middle of the wilderness and you have to find your way out somehow. The midi additions create even more atmosphere but I still do not think they reach their maximum potential. I feel as though the tracks are missing some kind of key ingredient but I’m not entirely sure what. I guess in general the payoffs aren’t quite sincere enough but the music that lingers around is just captivating enough to help you through it anyways.
The standout tracks are the ones where Kinack emphasizes the beat almost to perfection. He does this best on the opening track “Mossback” where we have this really subtle, yet powerful guitar rhythm matched with a xylophone, yes, xylophone. The guitar licks coincide so beautifully with the atmosphere of everything else that is going on especially the electronic drums and string arrangements. “All From Nowhere” is another great track that feels much more lo-fi. The techniques here are much different as the beat is more bass oriented with less guitar and more keyboard. The dreamlike samples are mixed in effortlessly to bring in a nice harmony of very natural, unnatural sounds. Another track that really stands out is “The Tempest” because of that incredible violin sample that floats through the entire track. It’s very movie soundtrack worthy and it really gets the energy of the record up.
Overall, the record is very good but I think the length is a weakness. Being a lover of electronic and experimental music, I know that you have to take the bad with the good because there are just so many albums that come out on a weekly basis in these genres. The most common issue with the weaker records is that they exceed their welcome. In this case, Kinack went a bit over the edge with his overall time and although the record doesn’t suffer entirely, it just creates a tiny void. I’d rather see this record come in at 40 minutes than over an hour. I would also like to see the energy on this album get lifted but I think the time issue is what takes away from the energy so I think when the length is fixed, the energy will naturally explode out. As a young producer though, I see a bright future for Slavkin as long as he can polish his skills and get himself oriented with a wider variety of instrumentation. We’ll see what he does, but for now, I’m very happy with this release.