Writing reviews for dance music albums right now is in hiatus. Reviewers are in a strange position lately. On one hand there is the pressure that comes from the labels who don’t like their releases being labelled as bad or mediocre. This is quite understandable in the current economic situation. On the other hand there is the social media giving everyone the opportunity to be critic of everything and most of the people easily stick to the masses’ opinion rather then forming their own. There is also another reason why it’s getting harder to write about dance music and it’s like an elephant in the room – albums in this industry are mostly treated as tools for acquiring more press coverage and therefore more gigs. This is not news, but today is more obvious than ever. Sometimes the heavily promoted album feels so insincere to the point of a general lack of soul. Luckily we decided to try to revive our duty as reviewers with KiNK’s second LP – Playground out November 3rd on Gerd Jansen’s Running Back label.
In a tech breakdown of the album for Mixmag, KiNK admits that he had the epiphany in which direction the sound will go after some heavy jamming in his studio. This really explains the title in every way, because when you listen to it you can feel the raw energy of his live sets, with a little studio polish and some sonic deviations for the 4×4 format here and there making the whole venture a bit more sophisticated and executed in a very playful way at the same time. And when you say it like that it looks kinda obvious, but actually it’s more honest than obvious.
We know that Strahil have a sweet tooth for some poppy productions and his collaborations with his girlfriend, the amazing Rachel Row, proved that already. Yet he stay away from the temptation to create something that eventually is going to show him in a different, more pop-oriented light. We admit that the LP format is a good way to please exactly this temptation, but honestly, most of the dance music artists fall graciously in such endeavors. We saw many examples of producers trying to do something which totally deviates from their original dancefloor sound often resulting in easy to forget productions or ones that mostly relate on featuring artists and vocalists. Despite our hero had a real diva in his sleeve who can spice up every tune in the album, all we can hear from her is a very effective vocal hook in the glorious track Samodiva (a mythical female creature from the Bulgarian folklore).
KiNK managed to create an honest snapshot of who he is and in what he is good at. There are euphoric tunes like The Russian or Teo Techno which could bring you right in the middle of his live sets. There are some breaks and funk influenced beats (Suncatcher, Samodiva), some mellow moments (the opening Soar and the closing The Universe In Her Eyes) and some industrial electronica (A Taste of Metal). Strahil adores Aphex Twin and we see that clearly in Peter Piet Piete which naturally brings memories of the IDM era. Occasionally there are cheeky melodies which Strahil often use in his productions and proven very effective and Pert is a great example of this. The track is an awesome combo of disco influenced strings and his euphoric style turning it into the album’s peak. If somehow you didn’t had the desire to “shake it up” during the first part of the album, then Perth definitely should do it.
KiNK manages to deliver an album which checks in every way – it has some intellectual pretence with it’s ups and downs, mixed with some “Made in Sofia” electronica, without deviating sharply from the dancefloor productions which made him relevant in the first place. His honest approach to the LP format once again wins our like and approval of his artistry.