Dani Kiyoko’s “Krow*” is a testament to the artist’s indecipherable choices, a swarming 19 tracks of creative stamina. Follow-up record “Dark Matters” refocuses this massive energy. They’re essential listens for those interested in the underground’s frayed frontiers.
Dani Kiyoko lives and works in pluralities. As their Twitter bio states, they are “music producer/artist/creative director/model”. Kiyoko’s music comes about in comprehensive albums, shorter tapes, and a stack of singles that reaches back years. They create raging trap music with a strange and compelling closeness, a sense of intimacy. Past the autotune and reverb and heaps of modified instruments it’s as if Kiyoko is talking directly at you, sometimes aimlessly and other times with extreme and exacting focus. Both give rise to engaging tunes. Kiyoko’s song “Rick Kicks” is mostly just rambling about the colours of his wardrobe set to a brilliantly gothic trap beat. Comparatively, “Neva Fold” is knife-edge sharp, a truly excellent song led by Kiyoko’s winding autotune vocals. These tracks come from the album “Krow*”, released this past June. “Krow*” proves Kiyoko’s unfiltered approach can create deeply interesting and highly saturated music; it’s a storm of overlapping adlibs, run-on sentences, and razor-blade performances that resonate through the dense sonic fabric like a rudder through seafoam.
“Krow*” follows a fairly linear progression for an album so full of conflicting sounds and ideas. “Left & Right”, the opener, is a decent warm up, a tidal midtempto tune with melodies that soar in and out of high pitch. Kiyoko weaves loose stories of fame and violence but is mostly hard to understand, stuttering in and out or obscured by effects as if warping into the album at its beginning. “YSL Flow” is the record’s rap skill statement, with Kiyoko threading rapid bars through restrained tones. No one song on the album has much of its own sense of consequence – the tracks spin in their sequence like turbines, building force until moments of explosion. You can hear this well on “Foreign”, full of tension from glittery melodies and stormy bass, as well as on other mid-album cuts like “Neva Fold”.
The more cathartic tracks give the impression of their own result, a blunt impact, a crash, but are in fact the overspill of rage gathered from the record’s early moments. In crafting the record like this Kiyoko achieves cohesion through momentum, and leaves the individual songs as vignettes of a greater cycle of emotional purge. It’s hard to imagine someone less eclectic pulling this off with such informality. “TALIBAN” is deranged, with promises to “take off your legs” set on blown out bass. Closing track “With You” is the ultimate expanse and ultimate collapse, overwhelmingly loud, authentic, and inward. “Me and you, I love the way your body move” sings Kiyoko as he gets lost in his own mechanical choir.
Some artists sound like an angel on your shoulder. Some sound like a devil. Dani Kiyoko sounds like about 15 of each talking all at once. For all the energy “Krow*” carries, it can be genuinely hard to hear the lyrics. It can be challenging to get attached to individual points in the overarching experience. Curiously, Kiyoko’s follow up tape, “Dark Matters”, builds upon the insanity of “Krow*” with a new sense of clarity.
For one thing, Kiyoko’s voice just sounds clearer on “Dark Matters”. Where “Krow*” used compounding layers of singing to create an overwhelming presence, songs like “Like Huh” and “Money Up” are confidently singular. “Money Up” is, in every sense of the word, fantastic, with brass fanfare, crash cymbals, and trap drums colliding in a totally compelling portrait of Kiyoko as a genre-sorcerer, a true creative pluralist. “I’m on your block, I’m tryna make it rain… shells” raps Kiyoko, sly and militant. Even more focused is “Wit Da Gods”, shared with internetfr3ak, an assault on public perception that slides in some quirky cadences – internetfr3ak rhymes teller, fella, and catcher and it somehow comes together. The best synthesis of “Krow*”’s immense emotional energy and the precision of “Dark Matters” is “Like Woah”. Everything about this track, from the mystic melodies to the progressive bassline to the way Kiyoko’s pitched up self dives in and out of the mix like a ghost through walls; it all just feels accurate.
Dani Kiyoko’s albums are equal parts coda and introduction. Their music elevates the ontology of trap and rage into something unbound by expectation. “Krow*” and “Dark Matters” show how embracing and wielding strong emotions through a uniquely plural lens can create art like nothing else; fleeting and real, transitory and deeply essential; musical fashion.
Listen to “Krow*” here.
Listen to “Dark Matters” here.
– Jamie (Managing Editor @108MICS)