Koi Child release an impressive fusion of funk, jazz and hip-hop that has Kevin Parker’s production sound throughout
Fremantle’s Koi Child is a project born out of collaboration and spontaneity. The seven-strong collective includes members of hip-hop group Child’s Play and nu-jazz quartet Kashikoi who met while performing on the same bill at a concert; they clicked, and played an impromptu jam for fun. The results have led to this debut album, a joyous blend of funk, hip-hop, jazz and neo-psychedelia that evokes the same feelings of impulse and interplay that the band’s origin story suggests.
Australia must to be a smaller world than you would think, because Kevin Parker of Tame Impala happened to be in the audience during that first jam. Impressed, he asked the newly formed group to support him on tour, and eventually ended up producing this record.
Parker’s signature style is apparent everywhere – the beefy, bass-driven low end, the crisp drums, and the mix thickened by phasers and inebriating reverb. These effects soak Koi Child’s jazz instrumentation in sunlight; dizzying heat fills the upbeat tracks and cool summer air floats through the relaxed ones. Under this approach, Koi Child’s music feels cohesive in mood, while the band’s free performance style means that no shiny effect feels too calculated or sanitised.
The success of this is seen immediately on the expressive intro cut. Wailing saxophones and rumbling trombones tumble over each other, as hip-hop-leaning drums keep things steady underneath. Melancholy harmonies melt through each other as the track progresses, the band’s interplay meshing in a perfect setting of tone.
As the band move onto ‘Wumpa Fruit’ – a giddy cut that moves from lazy funk, to slick rap verses, to psychedelic noodling – it becomes obvious that this is no ordinary jazz record. This wicked concoction allows the band to conjure up Hancock, Hendrix and De La Soul simultaneously, and the result never feels forced. Charismatic rapper Shannon “Cruz” Patterson delivers a verse with a nimble flow that keeps him from being swallowed by the rich sounds around him.
‘Touch ‘Em’ is just as energetic, complete with rasping horn solos and plenty of clattering percussion. Patterson’s verses are given adequate space to breathe, and after a woozy chorus, he hands over to the band, who come armed with sharp stabs and smooth flourishes. What’s perhaps most impressive about this collaboration is how important everyone feels to the formula. Parker’s production, Child Play’s attitude and Kashikoi’s instrumentation are a glorious fit, each track delivered with the confidence of a more acquainted group.
The highlights are frequent, such as on ‘Slow One’, where Patterson raps about using his school journals as rolling roaches over distant horns, chilled out organs and a resonant bass drums; it strolls you through a sun-baked city even when you’re stuck in traffic. The lean ‘Black Panda’ is one the tightest moments, its slippery rhymes carried by rolling drums and glossy keys. Some moments aren’t as memorable, such as ‘Preserve’ where the band pull the same tricks as earlier on the record but with less flash. Here, Patterson counts down the bars as like he’s running on autopilot.
Hip-Hop and jazz have always been in constant conversation, from A Tribe Called Quest and Digable Plants through to Dilla, Kendrick and Thundercat. Koi Child’s debut proves exactly why this is the case. It’s a glowing show of talent that feels as physical as when its members first stepped on stage for a jam.
This Koi Child article was written by Stephen Butchard, a GIGsoup contributor