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2Even a Tear

Nairobi-born Berlin-based sound artist Joseph Kamaru, aka KMRU, shares his new work »Stupor« on the new Helsinki-based label Other Power. Commissioned by the Helsinki curatorial and commissioning agency PUBLICS, »Stupor« is comprised of three original long form tracks. The tracks on the album are speculative notes to social architectures and environments the artist has traversed.

As Bhavisha Panchia, a curator and researcher, writes in her liner notes:

“A musical alchemist, KMRU places his listeners’ ear into a sonic-spatial matrix in which he transmutes his trans-local experience of place into elevated sonic dimensions that demand a kind of listening that you need to surrender to. If listening positions you inside an event – into a relational, social and cultural act that also positions us in the world – then listening to this album projects you inside an indeterminate unfolding, thick with tensions of movement and transitions.

The artist’s pursuit of sounding out and responding to the world is undertaken through a creative mode of listening, recording and production, in which his ‘voice’ reverberates in his compositional arrangements – that mediate, translate, imagine and re-encode. As he engages with the environments he encounters, KMRU ‘renders sound negotiable, thinkable’.

His signature emerges through electro-acoustic forms as he configures spatial and temporal imaginaries still tethered to the experiences of the places his ear encountered. The tracks on this album, Stupor, are speculative notes to social architectures and environments the artist has traversed. His orchestrated compositions and arrangements levitate us and turn our ears towards places and times beyond our reach, propelling us into a future anticipated but ungraspable. It is exactly the physical and psychological space that KMRU forges from his recordings and digital processes that stretch and transform them into prolific sound ‘events’.

We could think of Nairobi and Berlin as instruments in KMRU’s compositions, where the east African city is the place from which KMRU’s listening has been nurtured, while the west European is the city to which his ear has been attuned. The artist’s relationship with Nairobi’s diverse neighbourhoods – from Kariokor flats in the Eastlands where he grew up, to the suburbs in Rongai – has shaped his approach. His ongoing recordings of the city are crucial to his process of working and become historical records that capture it in time. They could be thought of as aural archives of a postcolonial place, undergoing numerous planned and unplanned infrastructural as well as economic changes. He treats these sonic documents of a rapidly expanding postcolonial environment – alongside globalisation, hyper-capitalism and increasing economic disparity across the globe – as the foundations from which he creates.

Stupor reminds us that we are intrinsically spatial and temporal beings who contribute to the social construction of our worlds. Importantly, this album is a reminder of the capability of sound to carve out space and its potential to open spatial and temporal dimensions. Sound is movement. Sound is space. As Brandon LaBelle points out, “sound is both a thing of the past and a signal of the future”, pulling us forwards and pointing us back. The signals KMRU points us towards are indefinite, indeterminate and uncertain. They lean towards a future, yet never fully arrive there.

For Joseph Kamaru, sound is a sensorial medium through which social, material and conceptual interpretations are manifested in his works. KMRU carries with him a repository of listening experiences from Nairobi and beyond expanding his sonic practices, bringing an awareness of surroundings through creative compositions, installations and performances. KMRU has carved out a serious and definitive space on the list of essential authors in ambient experimental music - one of the most prolific and innovative artists in his field.