The playful, breezy and gently hypnotic debut LP from K-LONE was a perfect oasis of calm to escape to when things got a little too heavy. No surprise we found ourselves making countless trips throughout 2020.
In a year where the simple act of staring out a window or ambling amongst some trees could lift the mood, any album which whisked us away to a private tropical island was a necessary balm. “Cape Cira” did exactly that. Josiah Gladwell’s first full-length might have plausibly gone the other way: as one-half of Wisdom Teeth alongside Facta, he’s made and released some of the better British club music of recent years – zipping naturally through UKG, 4x4, breaksy techno and echoes of dubstep past.
“Cape Cira” strikes a different path. Though there’s a faint undercurrent of house music running through it, the album is a kindred spirit to the fourth-world imaginings and balmy environmental music sculpted over time by the likes of Robert Rich, Midori Takada, Jon Hassell and Finis Africae, or more recently Sugai Ken, Visible Cloaks, Mark Barrott and Don’t DJ. You can even pick up tasting notes of Steve Reich. That is to say, the album is zen in the extreme.
Tucked away at the end of K-LONE’s 2019 EP “Sine Language” was, well, a sign. The fourth and final track, ‘Bells’, rings clear as what Gladwell would come to interrogate on “Cape Cira”: a way to hold the synthetic and organic in twine. “Cape Cira” does the same, beginning with submerged kicks before slowly unmooring itself from the dock of dance music and drifting out onto the open blue.
At points the album can be funky, most notably on the brain-bendingly catchy “Honey”. At others, the vibe is tranquil and emotionally tender: see the stunning 1-2 centrepiece of ‘Cape Cira’ and ‘Bluefin’, the moment at which you might find your shoulders loosening and all the tension in your head evaporating, like mist over a mountaintop. Birdsong, crickets, rain hitting tin and all manner of atmospheric noise prick the ears; by this stage, we usually find ourselves hoping the album has longer to run, but at just 48 minutes it keeps excess at bay.
The eight songs on “Cape Cira” fit the aching dislocation of 2020 like a glove, which presumably isn’t what Gladwell had in mind during its composition (though, made in the depths of grey winter, it was intended to provide light and warmth). Right now, the album feels like a gift to human resolve as much as a paean to the natural world – bestowing a rare gravitas for a debut record and imbuing it with staying power that will last long after life under lockdown has thawed.