Photo courtesy of Warp Records

Fave Five: Kwes

UK electronic producer Kwes can write his own future, but outside of pushing his sound in directions, looks back fondly on the records that inspired and taught him.

Songs For Midi
6 April 2018

In a short amount of time, Kwes has built up quite a bit of clout, as this Lewisham-born producer has taken his warped electronic sounds and filtered it through modern R&B and soul sensibilities. While many artists these days seem to integrate increasingly-electronic elements into their soulful thumps, Kwes (the only name he goes by) has been on the forefront of genre-bending pop music, producing several songs of of Solange’s acclaimed A Seat at the Table and working heavily with Warp Records signee Kelela.

Yet after Kwes dropped his stunning solo effort ilp in 2013, his sonic continues to evolve, evidenced no better than with clangy, jazzy, clattering new EP Songs For Midi. It marks a different direction for Kwes, using traditional song structures as a basis but dismantling them, warping them, and turning them in on themselves. They start one way and swing another, ending up in new locations through a very organic progression. Kwes is steaking out new sonic territory all his own and is no doubt most welcome at the Warp Records stable.

To help celebrate the new EP, Kwes gave us his Fave Five albums of all time, ranging from rock to hip-hop to groundbreaking microbeat-driven ambient records. He spares no expense explaining why he loves each, and after giving them a listen, there’s a real tangible connection between these select LPs and Kwes’ current efforts.

Robert Wyatt: Rock Bottom (1974)

I recently found that Robert had started writing the music to this record before he fell from the fourth-floor window. I was always under the impression that he had started this record afterward. The fall must’ve influence how the record was finished/ended up sounding, though. This album is full of such odd and gorgeous moments, [like] the reverse halfway through “Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road”. Hugh Hopper’s emotive bass solo alongside Robert’s beautiful chords and whispers of “Alifib”. I’m not normally that keen on whispers committed to tape, but they work so well in this song. “Alife’ sounds like a disheveled teddy bear with its button eyes ripped out; cuddliness juxtaposed with jadedness or dread or something in between. Ivor Cutler’s epic ending of “Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road”. This album is a masterpiece.

Tom Vek: We Have Sound (2005)

This album is so enjoyable. It takes me back to my mid-late teens, which mainly comprised of precarious BMX-riding with broken headphones, pink and black checkered vans, late night conversations on MSN Messenger, late night takeaway runs, sticky beer soaked pub and club floors. “C-C (You Set The Fire In Me)” blew my mind the first time I heard it. “We Have Sound” grooves so awkwardly in the most haphazard and wonderful manner and the way Tom made the record was and has always been a continuous inspiration to me. It partly gave me the confidence to really go and do this music thing, in particular embracing your imperfections and limitations, whatever they are. Tom’s made two other great albums and I’m very much looking forward to his fourth.

J Dilla: Donuts (2006)

I think I’ve written about this record before, so I’ll most probably repeat myself, but what an album! — his last before he passed away, 12 years ago! The painful circumstances he had been lumbered with whilst making this record only adds to its poignancy, for me personally. Genius sample manipulation/composition. I do think it also sounds like him at his freest musically. There’s still so much of his production I haven’t heard yet, but from what I’ve heard it seems to be. The only other music of his I’ve heard that comes close in terms of freeness is his work on Common’s Electric Circus and the Ruff Draft EP. I would love to have heard Dilla go into film scoring, [as] that would’ve been amazing. Donuts, forever delivering, without the cholesterol, always fresh, never stale.

Jan Jelinek: Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records (2001)

I came across this record only recently, can’t believe I didn’t earlier. Jan’s made such a beautifully delicate and ethereal record and sounds so ahead of its time — scratch that: simply, it’s a timeless experimental electronic record. It has quickly become an album I play all the time, a fantastic headphone listen, with its minimal yet intricate percussive clicks, the thought-provoking sampled keyed and stringed instruments, I think. I would love to know what jazz records Jan sampled to make this music. I also found that he used the Ensoniq ASR-10 sampler, not that the gear matters, but fascinating to me nonetheless, as I instantly think of Timbaland, the Neptunes, and Kanye whenever I hear of that sampler. The album artwork is the best type of beige too. [laughs] His record Schaum with Masayoshi Fujita is great too.

Oneohtrix Point Never: Replica (2011)

I’ve overplayed this record. I had to step away from it for a little while, now I’m back in it. I do love his other albums though, but this one just really hits home. The manipulation of the samples in this album is so soulful. The synthesizers, the compositions — everything. It sounds like Daniel’s most cathartic record, to me. This is one of the best records to listen to: on headphones, when you’re on your way home, preferably in the evening and your mode of transport is above ground, it’s one of those ones where it synchronises so well in those settings, the repetition in architecture, the friction between commuters, the low-lit lamplights, the sun setting, the bright car headlights burning your eyes every now and then. Perhaps I’m talking this way about the album because I’ve listened to it so much and I guess as humans we love catching patterns in everything around us. Also very happy to be his label mate. [laughs] Anyway, enough rambling from me: check this record out and get lost in its plaintive beauty.