Sorrow is a recent release from Ian Hackett Kahl. It’s a deeply personal record that took three years to make and is about the loss of his mother. I found his explanation fascinating and highly original for finding the palettes of sounds he decided to use on the album. He explains “‘Sorrow’, from its first track to its very last track, is a full length album exploring my grief – the loss of my mother – contrasted by the sounds of 8bit/16bit era video games. This intentional contrast of dark subject matter and light sonic landscapes underscores the meaning of this album to me. Most of my memories of early childhood are a combination of 1980s videogame experiences and the presence of my mother. Because these two unlikely things are connected in my mind it seemed like a perfect framework for a grief focused project.”
I think I might be in a similar age range to Kahl because I was born in 1981 and was playing video games which contained the 8bit/16bit sounds and images. Kahl uses these sounds brilliantly throughout the album. I would make some general comparisons to bands like The Postal Service and Dntel. The emotion is there throughout the album and it’s this beautiful mix of nostalgia, reflection, melancholy but also movement.
The first song “the sleep blue” swells in with synths that sound like orchestral strings. There are multiple synths and he begins to sing but his voice is manipulated by a robotic like effect. I’m normally not into this manipulation of the voice but for this and the rest of the songs it worked wonderfully. He was able to get this beautiful tone that sounds like a cross between a robot and a celestial being. The programming and arrangement was great. I thought the percussive aspects were top notch.
“light through the window” continues with this vibe and the music is just exceptional. It’s top notch electronic music and rivals some of the bigger names like Aphex Twin and Amon Tobin. “soul blind” is the arguable highlight. It’s this mix of digital and analog soundscapes that makes this sound as if this where AI robots go after they die.
The album extends on “cursed algorithms” as we hear snippets of joys and bright lights. The song blossoms. There is more reflection and contemplation with “speak to ghosts.” HIs signature sound is reinforced with “hum” and the beautiful “dissolve up in forests.” The closer “famine of spirit” is like a spoken word piece that forges into the light. I felt like I was moving into the future.
I haven’t talked about the lyrics yet. It’s hard to understand what he is saying because of the effects and I would recommend checking out the lyrics on Bandcamp. He’s also a poet who is able to creates lines which avoid cliches but can be powerful and resonate with your being.
This is hands down one of the best and original release I have heard this year. Highly recommended.
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