Album Review: Dust Red Skies - Dust Red Skies

Dust Red Skies is the new self-titled album and collaboration from San Francisco based John Brian Kirby, who I've previously featured on in his Nonagon guise.

Yet this is a very different album to Days Away, The Nonagon album that I last heard from Kirby. Where that was an album that felt enjoyably lost in the left-field this is a more polished affair, not that Days Away lacked finesse. For starters, this is a partnership - so Kirby is joined by a vocalist in the form of Vibrasol's Angie Donkin, whose vocals grant this album a more human feel with a tangible emotional core. Donkin's vocals feel very much like the centre to these tracks - they are full and soar over some of these tracks to create a sparse feeling sound where the music creates auditorium's for her to sing in.

Dust Red Skies

Which isn't to undermine the music itself. Kirby's productions glisten with little details - the subtle strumming of a guitar or crunchy rhythms that then at times endure the full-frontal assault of massive wobbly bass lines. But there is an undeniable accessibility to this music - it feels like in their collaboration Kirby and Donkin have tempered each other, and often the result is positive, as on the sparkling melodies and vocal harmonies of "Shadowless".

The sound Kirby is going for feels like dusty desert evenings of the near-future - there is almost a country feel to the songwriting itself and it feels like that is where the album's title comes from. It is reminiscent of Hybrid's more melodic vocal moments.

The only downside of this is that it feels a little like some of Kirby's rough edges have been worn down in the creation of this album. The production still impresses in it's technical ability, but it may not have quite the same verve when it is bound to supporting vocals so much of the time.

Dust Red Skies helps to demonstrate Kirby's enduring and varied talents if nothing else, and is well worth a listen. You can stream and purchase it on Bandcamp


Album Review: Days Away - Nonagon

Nonagon is that rarest of things - a musician giving away music that is not just passable, it's actually exceptional. Self released and available for free in 128k MP3 or sold on a 'name your price' basis for a higher quality format of your choice (pretty much anything you can think of), Days Away is an atmospheric trip through the mind of its creator, John Brian Kirby.

A varied album, Days Away is in essence all leftfield electronic music. There are a ton of influences - touches of Four Tet, traces of Amon Tobin an Burial - but on the whole it's different enough that, as an album, it stands on its own two feet.

A whole range of styles and genres are taken in - atmospheric breaks on 'Fixed Action Pattern', sample laden hip-hop beats on 'Mr Sniggles' House' and ambient drum n bass on 'South Without a Candle' - and Nonagon really gets the chance to show off his production skills. The problem with self-produced, self-released electronic albums is that without the knowledge and experience of a producer guiding things the result sounds flat and lakes pace.

With the help of Steve Hall, who mastered the album, Days Away confidently circumvents any such concerns. Take 'Underlayed By Reflection' for example, a near-on nine minute intelligent drum n bass track. Many well known DJs and producers would struggle within that framework yet Nonagon doesn't just deliver production that feels fresh and professional, the track is also fantastically sequenced, building and developing throughout its length.

If you are a fan of leftfield dance music you would be a fool not to at least check Days Away out. It's free to try after all.

Available to download from Bandcamp. If you enjoy this music please support the artist and pay for a higher quality download.

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