One could be forgiven for being somewhat perplexed, and perhaps even a bit skeptical, upon encountering a collaboration between two such disparate artists as Kid Koala and Emiliana Torrini. Kid Koala, he of the magical talking turntables and endlessly goofy sense of humor. Emiliana Torrini, she of the haunting voice summoning up visions of her glacial, windswept Icelandic homeland. Kid Koala is certainly no stranger to collaboration, having been part of numerous super groups throughout his storied career. My personal favorite of these is undoubtedly Lovage, which included the show-stopping talents of Mike Patton and Dan the Automator to great effect. For her part, Torrini has worked with everyone from GusGus to Kylie Minogue. The well-documented talent and creativity of both artists notwithstanding, imagining what the two would sound like working together is challenging; like foie gras and ice cream, sometimes good things just don’t go together. Happily, this is not the case here.
It is indeed difficult to imagine Emiliana Torrini crooning over the knee-slapping turntablism of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome era Kid Koala, but the music on offer throughout Music to Draw to: Satellite bears little similarity to his earlier work. Like all right-thinking folks, Kid Koala clearly has a few Brian Eno records stashed in his crates, as well as Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works II. Music to Draw to: Satellite is all about the minimalist ambience with lots of purring and moaning. This is cold music too; we are not talking about warm, happy ambient here. The album cover really says it all: an aerial view of what might be a snow-covered field, or what might be a blank piece of white paper. It is fitting that this record came out in late January; this is winter music for sure. Kid Koala and Emiliana Torrini give us a delightful surprise with Music to Draw to: Satellite that will provide a fitting soundtrack to snow gradually accumulating on your front porch.
The 18 tracks that make up Music to Draw to: Satellite fade in and out of each other, never actually reaching anything that could be called a climax, but hitting moments of particular beauty. Take the series of tracks spread across the record: “Transmission 1”, “Transmission 2”, and “Transmission 3”. The first part of the series drifts along, featuring what might be some creaky strings or possibly a faraway accordion; Torrini is nowhere to be heard. The second part is even more minimalist, without any identifiable acoustic instruments and still no Torrini. The third part brings the trilogy to something like a resolution, with the best elements of the first two parts represented, but this time with Torrini floating up out of the murk like Grendel’s mother from her mere. This cycle of tracks is a microcosm of the record overall: lots of understated, lovely minimalism that eventually blossoms into outright gorgeousness.
Folks coming to Music to Draw to: Satellite expecting something akin to Kid Koala’s work in Deltron 3030 or Gorillaz are going to be pretty puzzled. This record seems like it exists in Emiliana Torrini’s world, rather than Kid Koala’s. We should have no problem with that; an artist who is willing to expand their pallet and show us different sides of their creativity is one to be admired. With this in mind, Music to Draw to: Satellite is not for everyone. Many people find ambient music either dull or frustrating. This record is not going to win over anyone who is already skeptical of ambient music, but for those of us who have always loved this kind of stuff, Music to Draw to: Satellite provides a beautiful respite from the noise of everyday life.