Many may draw comparisons between Flying Lotus’ recently released Until the Quiet Comes and the new album by Brooklyn beat-master KRTS. The album, his debut full-length on Project: Mooncircle, called The Dread of an Unknown Evil, shares some similarities with FlyLo (both feature members of their family, also a somewhat similar color scheme on their covers, maybe even a vaguely recognizable body part), but ‘the many’ would be wrong in placing these two artists within the same category.
Some may also see this as another R&B revival, which has become a ubiquitous trend in electronic music of late. But here, again, they would be mistaken. KRTS has done something more important than pay tribute to past decades’ heavy influence in modern music. On all ten tracks of the album I don’t get the feeling KRTS is striving for any particular sound. That is, these tracks all seem effortless and as an output of KRTS alone, his ‘own sound’ if you will. If anything, the genres found within this album are closer to soul, house, and jazz than they are to R&B.
The opening track to The Dread of an Unknown Evil is fittingly titled ‘Something New,’ and features KRTS’ brother Jon Hairston providing vocals nothing short of gospel. KRTS and Jon do a remarkable thing here, as neither artist really deserves the definition of ‘adding’ to the other performer on the track. The production of KRTS and his brother are inseparable. At times, KRTS backs the vocals with rich atmospheres and quick ticks of hi-hats and hand claps. Elsewhere the vocals meld into background sound as Jon lifts KRTS up for display. The two seem to weave around each other, creating a seamlessly coherent track.
‘Fire,’ has, as KRTS puts it, been the most talked about number of the album among friends. It’s a heady bass track supplemented with the repetitious line, “How can we keep this fire burning?” The production of the track is layered with what sounds like pops in a campfire and haunting snippets of vocals, as if KRTS was inviting us to sit around with him and share ghost stories. The crescendo of the track doesn’t hit until halfway when KRTS summons piano chords that are punched with heavy elbows.
If there is one recurring theme to the album, it is that of innocence and fear. From the album’s name and title track, to the track, ‘Close the Closet Door,’ and ‘Strange Boys in Blue,’ like looking at officers from the eyes of a child. Forgotten anxieties take form as hazy memories and KRTS uses his music to gain access to these and overcome some unknown evil. Like a Freudian sit-down, everything is tied to family, loss, and what is buried underneath. If the album has a story to tell, it is a ghost story.
I could be totally off-base about all of my interpretations of the album. This could be anything, really. What KRTS has created here is a totally personal album, one that only he can find some clarity in. I do, though, think his personal experience of The Dread of an Unknown Evil is carried on into its listening experience. We can feel that what is being emitted here is deep, sacred, and troublesome, which makes it so successful.