Since Oceans Apart (2013), I have enjoyed the trouble of not knowing how to place Kae Sun’s music, as his sound resists colonization into any one or two or three genres. You can definitely attempt to file him next to experimental lo-fi RnB and gritty soulful pop or even post Burger Highlife and spooky soul. But his music generally tends to transcend barriers and define its own sacred space. His latest project, Whoever Comes Knocking, released in March 2018 via Moonshine is an exposition of some of the new and old boundaries of his sound that form a shape-shifting image.
The Canada-based Ghanaian singer songwriter’s nifty sonic signature with mellow moody instruments and honest storytelling allows his projects to moonwalk on the blurry borders of different genres. This album sees him investigating a cross section of themes from freedom and love and loss and new beginnings with a metaphor heavy approach through simmering plateaus of refreshing healing sounds.
The 37-minute, 10-song album begins with an Akan invocation or intercessory prayer which he samples and builds up into a warbly space age, funk-inspired superhero theme song. Indeed, this love for and mastery of blending different styles is why Kae Sun remains so unique in a world obsessed with the sameness of sound. The entire album although loosely-knit, has a distinct feeling and is wrapped with many different musical moments that allow listeners to peak into the artist’s unique, well-ground identity.
On one of the standout cuts on the project, Long Walk, he sculpts a squeaky clean yet uplifting mood with hollow vocal phrases, cushioned by his weightless lyrics as he explore a quest for freedom. The searching nature of the song mirrors themes exposed on it, as he takes you on a journey by melting different ideas of freedom, from its elusive nature to its disturbing familiarity. The transition of the different sonic elements on this song in particular is one thing that Kae Sun expertly does on this project as his almost also creates the right move to build the narratives on his tongues.
Breaking, another standout cut on the record has a steadier bounce to it with the charming galactic guitar lines and celestial phrases. Kae Sun also does some of his best singing here, switching between falsettos to draw a treasure map of rich lyrics about loss. These two songs were pulled from Oceans Apart, a 2013 EP and film, and seem to be a large fragments back bone of the records. Track 4, Canary and Flip The Rules, track 8is also from an EP by the same name that he put out in 2017.
For Kae Sun, this record is an expansion of his empathetic outlook on the conditions of a black man through music. It’s a very causal yet highly reflective look at his own experiences within a collective condition of struggle and oppression, joy and love. On Whoever Comes Knocking, with his identity as the center, Kae Sun invites clarity to his perspective by stirring up his sonic influences.
Written by Hakeem Adam
Images: Philippe Richelet and Neil Mota. Cover Artwork by Hugo Jeanson