I wrote about the Hey Elbow album last week, a complex, twisting album that was certainly genre defying, but also played around with conventional song structures too. Icelandic born but Berlin based Kenichi & The Sun is a very different artist, but her new album ‘White Fire’ is equally difficult to define and unconventional too, and opening track ‘A Tale Unfolds’ is my pick of an interesting album, which has rich experimental soundscapes throughout.
Behind Kenichi & The Sun is the musician Katrin Hahner, who under a previous guise performed as Miss Kenichi. She released a series of albums under that name, receiving widespread recognition in the process, before evolving the project in 2019.
‘White Fire’ does take some getting to know, but it’s worth the time and investment, with swirling beats, electronica, distorted strings and hypnotic vocals which at times make little attempt to ‘sing’ too many obvious tunes, instead chanting out rhythmic dark poetic verses. This can be a little bewildering, but then when she opens up melodically there is a real uplifting beauty there too – I guess ‘Splendour’ is a pretty good example of that mix.
I think to really appreciate the album it is probably best to understand the thought processes and personal circumstances that led to the album, which initially she seemed to have no intention of writing. There’s a really interesting interview with her here in Atwood Magazine which explains everything, but clearly the passing of her father and the tragic suicide of a close friend were understandable inspirations, whilst as for the title she explains “the centre of the fire, where heat is the strongest, is white. Nothing remains, except for that which is truth.”
‘A Tale Unfolds’ is an excellent title for the opening track of an album, but it’s a really effective song too, split into different movements / sections, with a rhythmic piano background to open, atmospheric, floating vocals then take the track away before a powerful musical theme becomes the centrepiece of the song – somehow she manages to combine both intimacy and power into the track in equal quantities.
There’s a clearly a vast array of musical, literary and personal influences that inspire Kenichi & The Sun, yet the result is so distinct and so undeniably her own unique style.