KAVA - 'Transmissions'

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this edition of Independent Spotlight, we take a preview-look at KAVA's new record, ‘Transmissions.’ The record was recorded digitally by members of AfroZep, a Chicago-based band that performs Zeppelin covers with an African vibe. KAVA classifies themselves as a psychedelic rock act, with ‘Transmissions’ being their new outing. Today, we’re going to delve into the first six tracks of the new album:

Elevation Repair: ‘Elevation Repair’ introduces the record with a droning synth loop that develops into a wah-wah-esque riff that trips around like a keytarist on LSD. The main beat is heavy and demanding, and the psychedelic instrumentals dance around it in a cinematic fashion. The song even hints at a bit of African influence left behind by AfroZep.

OverRoad: More droning synths introduce ‘OverRoad.’ It’s incredibly ‘Kid-A’ reminiscent, as if KAVA mined Thom Yorke’s mind for song ideas. The cascading piano and distorted guitar play off of eachother, devolving into sonic madness halfway through the track as sweeping, atmospheric synths drive the song into a tempo change. The electronic sounds being utilized are unique, sounding a bit like machinery mixed in with a broken telephone’s dialtone.

Happenstance: ‘OverRoad’ directly introduces ‘Happenstance,’ as the two songs converge to end one and begin the next. This track is quicker, with sounds echoing around like a spaceship. The sound is consistently interesting, which is difficult to achieve when your entire record is atmospheric, Thom Yorke-like electronica. In fact, KAVA navigates this terrain very well, especially in regard to the authenticity of the sound. Electronic, computer-synthesized music is difficult: the audience knows it was created like that, but it’s up to the artist to ensure that they immediately forget that and are never reminded by contrived soundscapes. Bad electronic-based music reminds listeners of its nature through poor design. KAVA has managed to back away from this dilemma through their excellent sound design and production, along with their intriguing mix of electric guitar and piano.

Razorwire To Nowhere: This track is very atmospheric, conjuring to mind broken landscapes from the ‘Walking Dead.’ That’s the point, though. I would actually call it quite beautiful, perhaps even introspective.

Horizontal Rocketspace: ‘Horizontal Rocketspace’ dips in and out of oblivion with odd-sounding technological samples occupying the space between the dips. In honesty, the bassline gets annoying quickly; it sounds like a repetitive heartbeat that you just wish would do something different. The track suffers a bit from this, because the thudding of it is unnoticable. With that said, it’s still a compelling track, especially at the end when the thudding dies out and the electronic sound effects build into the next song.

Book of Faces: The last track in my preview, ‘Book of Faces’ has a snare beat, something certainly unique in comparison to the previous five songs. The eclectic guitar is back as well with a great riff that repeats itself through the electronic noise. It goes haywire three-fourths of the way accompanied by fascinating harmonics.

The first six tracks of KAVA's ‘Transmissions’ make a compelling argument for the rest of the record. It’s strongly produced, very intriguing, and great music. With that said, it feels eerily similar to a lot of Thom Yorke produced content, and in reality, it seems to occupy the realm of atmospheric electronica more than it does psychedelic rock. Yes, it’s trippy, but that isn’t always a preface to psychedelic work. Regardless of what you want to call it, it doesn’t demand your attention, rather acting as a no-nonsense filler jam to whatever you’re doing. Check out the full album and KAVA's website below: