Enigmatic, experimental drum & bass artist Kimyan Law will release his third album Yonda on BMTM next month.
Building on the motifs and aesthetics of his previous albums – 2014’s Coeur Calme and 2016’s Zawadi – Yonda takes us deeper in the Congolese / Vienna-raised musician’s unique universe. Over 12 tracks he tackles themes of life, nature, the brutality of war and the plight of the humble dung beetle and even sings in his own constructed language.
He describes the album as a “plantal embrace” and that he feels it’s his most honest work so far. It would also be fair to describe it as adventurous, beguiling and yet another genuinely unique body of work from a young artist who’s not yet 25. Most pertinently, though, it’s his most personal body of work. It’s out November 8 and the audio will be revealed very soon. Here’s everything else we know so far…
This is the calm before the storm…
It’s interesting. I don’t know how people will react to this one. It’s been a few years between albums now.
I have a feeling it will be well received. Last time we spoke it was around your last album Zawadi. Bring us up to speed over the last three years…
I guess it was about two and a half years ago when I decided to do another album. My first album Coeur Calme was kind of compelled. It happened before I knew it was an album. Zawadi, my second, was the first concept album where I set out with something to say. Now this is the second conceptual one, I wanted to focus on it being part of an ongoing story. There are references, topics and ideas that continue in this story I’m telling. I also wanted to implement things I wanted to do. Cinematic techniques, different types of story telling, different arrangements. I feel like Yonda is the most honest work I’ve done up until now.
I like the idea of different story telling. The first track of an album sets the tone, right? The pace, the mood, everything begins on that first track. So Coeur Calme had a groove-based intro, Zawadi had a very dramatic, almost bombastic intro. But Yonda’s intro is much more contemplative introduction…
That’s interesting you say that because the first sound you hear on Yonda is the last sound you hear on Zawadi.
Ah nice! A real tangible link!
Yes. I like the idea of things branching out from a main line, going into different themes and stories and narratives but knotting them into one main thread. The reason why it might not be so obvious is that Zawadi has 12 tracks and not the 11 it says it does. There’s a hidden track after White Moth Anthem. The last couple of seconds of that album is the pre-natal form of Jaardin, the first track on Yonda.
Was that the first track you wrote as well? Did you personally start with that tone?
I planned a lot with this one. I did know I would use that tone at the start, yes. But the first track I wrote was Krieg, which I started three years ago. That and Jaardin are the poles of the album. Krieg is war and Jaardin is the most peaceful counterpart of that. I finally made Krieg and then met with ELYN, my vocalist for this album, and she and I completed writing Jaardin. If you listen to the third act of Krieg you will hear references to Jaardin.
Krieg is very personal to you and your upbringing isn’t it?
Very personal. We all have to deal with an inner battle. It can be an emotional one. It can be a physical one. For me it’s that one of the countries i’m from is torn apart by civil war. It’s dreadful and we can’t do anything about it. I tried to visit my grandmother and family in Congo and haven’t been able to do that yet. I was planning to go this month but that was cancelled, we were told it’s not safe. I want to see my family but can’t. It’s very complicated, but I have a huge family with two very different poles of where they are. It’s very hurtful to not be able to see the biggest part of my family for so long. So Krieg represents that. It represents Syria, it represents Sudan, it represents all war and how devastating it is. It tears us apart and we are the only species to do that.
Yonda is a village in Congo. Is that where your family are?
No no. But it is in Congo, yes. I knew it was a village up north. It’s almost out of the country and in the rain forest. It actually came about because I was constructing a con-language a few years ago. Just out of interest, but also to build another layer around the Kimyan Law universe. I constructed it from other languages.
That’s how many languages have been formed over centuries…
Exactly. You can also do a conlang with entirely newly constructed lingual structures but I didn’t take it that far. I took elements of Swahili, Dutch, English, Chinese, German, French and a few other languages. All the phonetic bits I liked and built what I felt sounded like an authentic language that people could feasibly speak.
Wow that’s mad detail. Fascinating. We hear that on the final track Kilele don’t we?
Yes you do. Kilele is Swahili for mountain or mountain peak but I do sing in that language. Yonda in that language to me is a mixture of meanings I’ve found. First is the location, which is in Congo. It’s also in the bible as the yonder star and in English yonder means something ‘over there.’
Yeah to me the word yonder implies a journey. It’s something that’s achievable but will take a little work to get there…
And that’s the third meaning. You see something you know you want to get to and you know in your heart how to get there but it will take some time.
So Kilele is the final track of the album. This is you at the bottom of the mountain, looking up at that peak. You still have a way to go. The journey is only beginning…
So zooming back into specific tracks. As well as the awfulness of the human condition you celebrate the beauty of nature, too. I hear that Dor Rhythm is an ode to the dung beetle? There’s also Seven Ant Foley…
Dor Rhythm was interesting. I can’t actually remember how I came up with that at the time. It just came up. I just pictured a dung beetle starting with grain of sand and then the music came about. This happens a lot. I picture something then the next thing I know I have almost written a piece.
I speak to a lot of artists about flow states. Calibre first mentioned them to me…
I have it nearly all the time. But with tracks like Krieg I had to take breaks because it was very draining. I also needed to bring other programs into it because of the different fx and time signatures. But usually I’m almost always in that flow. It’s not correspondent to time, it just happens and I let it happen.
It becomes an addiction doesn’t it? When your mind is empties and you’re completely in that moment. It’s very cathartic but hard to achieve, I find…
The more you develop your own technique of getting there the easier it is. But you need the inspiration to get there. To me it feels like a natural state of body and mind and spirit.
You’re an album artist and it’s clear you’re at peace in the studio. Albums, I guess, encourage that flow state…
They do. I don’t think my stuff works well piece by piece. Imagine if I dropped 30 singles? It would be strange. I know I do jungle bits but it’s not just made for dancefloors necessarily. I’m happy making an album, going away for some time and coming back.
The longer you leave it between albums, the further out of orbit you feel though, right? I imagine that’s thrilling. But also scary as, bottom line, you also need to make a living.
For me I’m happy that I have reached a point of where I am able to articulate messages that are so vitally important to me. That is the most thrilling thing. Being able to send out messages, ideas or thoughts one wants to say I feel should be very important to everyone. War, the eco system, humans and diets have all led up to this point of me doing this album. It’s a manifestation of everything that’s affected me and I feel I’ve come closer as both a musician and a human to the point where I feel I’ve said what I’ve wanted to say. And now in the future the music can be more playful. Perhaps.
What other messages were important for you to make on your album?
You touched on it earlier: the beauty of small things. The beauty of nature. Krieg is the destruction, Jaardin is the peaceful component. Jaardin represents one human life cycle from the start to whenever it finishes. I wanted to mimic nature in many places. I was born around a forest and grew up there. I wanted to mimic that feeling of how I feel in nature. Do you know what I’m talking about?
I live in the mountains and walk for hours. You hear your own rhythm and pace and how it fits in with the rhythm of the wind and sounds of everything around you. Like you’re at one with it.
Exactly so. You are no more important than the plants, animals or earth. If you are able to not be so distracted like we are in our zeitgeist, and you are able to have your time, then that’s a blessing. Humans need to tap into that way more often and cycle that work/life balance a lot more.
We create an awful amount of unnecessary bullshit as humans, don’t we?
I agree. I understand the logic behind the trappings and distractions we have and why we decided we needed them as humans. But there is another way. I think that, if you have the blessing and privilege to be in an environment where you can live pretty comfortable and have everything you can think of available to you, you also have the possibility of making conscientious choices of what you want to experience and change during your time here. People often feel it’s too much of an effort to opt-out of these distractions. Or they are anxious about it. But it’s not an effort and you can feel how real it is when you manage to do that. I hope the album gives the experience of that in a way. Like a plantal embrace.
Ha nice! So will the fourth album start with the final tone of Kilele? Or is that far too soon to say?
It’s probably too soon. However if you listen to the very last second of Kilele something happens that will eventually lead to the next part of the story. If you are familiar with music I’ve done before then you’ll hear similarities and some references. They are scattered all across every album from Coeur Calme to Yonda, in specific places and around specific topics. If you crack them it makes so much sense. I won’t talk about that because I want people to work it out but if you listen to that very last track of Zawadi, then Jaardin then Kilele you’ll find all the connections are there. Bless.
Kimyan Law – Yonda is out November 8 on BMTM: Pre-Order