Burkinabè urban jali and multi-instrumentalist Kaito Winse and Belgian noise punk artists Benjamin Chaval and Arnaud Paquotte (both of Brussels-based group Le Jour du Seigneur) make unstoppable sounds as Avalanche Kaito. They defy easy generic descriptions in creating hard-edged atmospheres that draw from hypermodern industrial realms and ancient oral traditions in equal measure. The trio’s new self-titled debut is a ferocious and fascinating release of cybernetic vibes and vital human energy, a mix that stays eerily exciting from start to finish.
The human core of Avalanche Kaito, primarily vocals and flutes (Winse), drums (Chaval), and bass (Paquotte), is a fairly minimalist group, sending sounds back and forth among themselves in avant-garde shapes that call to mind pared-down free jazz and progressive rock. Mediating these freeform sounds is software coded through the open-source program PureData, transforming Avalanche Kaito’s acoustics with truly surreal textures. Winse’s powerful voice echoes, filtered through layers of otherworldly effects. Paquotte’s bass growls and shimmers alongside Chaval’s bracing percussion, leaving behind sonic trails of technological magic. As an overlay for Winse’s longstanding Burkinabè proverbs, the programming makes for exciting juxtapositions of style and content.
Global folk-inspired noise rock isn’t new, of course, but Avalanche Kaito really seem to be doing something different with the concept, refreshingly so. Winse is not just an additional source of musical color but a true frontman, his vocals and other instruments tending to drive each track forward. Chaval and Paquotte seem to know just how to follow while innovating in their own spheres. It feels uncommonly well-balanced.
What comes of that is outstanding. The bassline and rattling drums on “Sunguru” support exuberant, passionate vocals, while the barely tangible traces of programming elevate the entire mix. On “Lebere”, drums are accompanied by thrilling, plugged-in squeals; Winse has ample space to rejoice, his bandmates making it all satisfyingly eerie. “Douaga” starts with sweet, serene flutes but quickly gains momentum as Winse’s simultaneous voice cuts through the airy start. Chaval and Paquotte join in rhythmic unison, then go their separate ways, moving parts that all work in frenetic tandem.
The pace slows on “Goomde”, an ominous waltz punctuated by high-pitched shouts from Winse. After tapering off into a doom-laden finish, “Bow” begins, featuring Winse expertly plucking out hypnotic rhythms on reverberating mouthbow over a subtly building bed of sound. “Eya” is the album’s climax, an epic progressive piece clocking in at over ten minutes. It’s evocative, almost cinematic, with moments of tension, cathartic action, and a hauntingly spacious ending. The denouement takes the form of two tracks: the erratic, ecstatic busts of “Toulele” and the soothing instrumental drones of “La Grand-père”.
As a collaborative project, Avalanche Kaito is a grand experiment in sound, space, and time. Past feeds present, and present projects hypothetical future; borders are reshaped and resounded as musicians cut across them. This music could not exist if not for flows between nations and genres. Multiple musical histories come to bear on Avalanche Kaito, resulting in an Afrofuturist-tinged, cyberpunk-shaped fantasy well worth an immersive listen.