Wednesday 23 October 2013

Elyas Khan - Brawl In Paradise

Album review by

I wonder how many times it's crossed people's minds whether or not there is a genuinely new style of music left to be created, and what it might sound like if so? There are always innovators and there always will be, but as a rule these bands/artists work by taking existing genres and pushing them forward somehow, usually by cross-pollinating them with other genres. It's the same with all forms of art and even life as a whole: things gradually change, they don't take giant leaps. It would be a bit much saying that Elyas Khan has taken any kind of giant leap on 'Brawl In Paradise', but the music he's made is distinctive and it is new. It may be made up of instruments that already exist and forms of music that already exist, but there's enough here to mark him down as a genuine innovator, and not just by welding one type of music to another. This is actual innovation.

Naturally, when attempting something like this you can either be hugely successful (in terms of the end product, not necessarily selling ringtones to teenagers) or end up with a misguided mess. From the buzzing bass and vocal cries of opener/intro 'Transmission Room 804', it's pretty clear that this won't be an abstract collection of sounds for chin-stroking musos. It's followed by 'Top Of The World'; a proper song, a new form of alternative pop music. The vocals are almost rapped but this is far from hip-hop, perhaps being closer to The Beta Band, but that's as close a comparison as you'll get, and it only tells part of the story. The array of instruments used is unconventional and wide, and also difficult to dissect. There's what could be a double bass and various types of percussion, but this is still something that any fan of "alternative" music can appreciate without having to go through the rigmarole of waiting for the ninth play before it begins to make sense.

That does show only one side of Elyas Khan, and straight away we get what must have grown from a simple acoustic number into something more decorated. 'Brawl In Paradise' is singing and strumming but with subtle layers of vocals and other weird and wonderful sounds carefully placed over the top, some easy to decipher (strings, piano) and others less so. He may have scant regard for boundaries, but that's not going to stop him penning some good tunes along the way. Much of the rest of the album could be described in a similar manner, and that would make for a repetitive read, although rest assured, this is not a repetitive album. It's difficult to do justice to surging, anything-goes, experimental tracks like 'Lowest Of The Low', 'Three Merry Boys' (a real stand-out along with 'Cook The Ocean') and single 'Bells' which has a hint of TV On The Radio about it. There are more ambient pieces such as 'Alien In Waiting' or the plucked snippet of 'Just A Shadow', and more atmospheric tracks like the excellently eerie 'The River' or the otherworldly 'What A Party'. More variety wraps things up as Saudia Young adds some female vocals to the edgy alt-pop of 'Dear Eliza'. Going heavily into the details of each track would be a lengthy process for an album like this, but we can safely say that 'Brawl In Paradise' is a bold and inventive record.

Elyas Khan's website

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