Wednesday 26 May 2021

'Mystafa' by Kalaha

'Mystafa' is the new album release from eclectic Danish quartet, Kalaha, whose awesome new project finds itself at home on April Records.

Having initially come together after having performed an improvised show in 2013 at the electronic STRØM festival in Copenhagen, Kalaha are comprised of band members Niclas Knudsen on guitars and bass, Emil de Waal on drums and Jens "Rumpistol" Christiansen and Mikaelon "Spejderrobot" Elkjær on synths and programming.  With each musician bringing an incredible amount of wealth and experience to the group, 'Mystafa' is a thrilling all-encompassing adventure that acts as a pure and unadulterated celebration from start to finish.  

As a project, 'Mystafa' is very much indicative of the bold and inspired approach to contemporary jazz that is now becoming synonymous with April Records.  We could marvel at length over saxophonist Cecilie Strange's mesmerising music or Little North's cutting-edge compositions... Under the guise of OTOOTO, saxophonist Oilly Wallace and trumpeter Jonas Due have just unveiled a fantastic project with their new album 'This Love is for You' revelling in varying styles across the contemporary jazz palette including the lush, groove-based stylings of neo-soul.  An absolute gem.

With past releases 'Hahaha' (2014) and 'Masala' (2016) released through Rump Recordings, and 'Mandala' through DME, Kalaha unveil their debut outing with April, hopefully marking the start of a lengthy relationship.  And if the standard of 'Mystafa' is anything to go by, expectations are now soaringly high for what the collective would unveil next.

'Hospabit' delivers as the perfect album opener - with its off-kilter sonics, it's conflicting yet completely harmonious jazz-meets-pop abrasiveness, the track brilliantly sets the tone for the music that follows.  At the album's outset, Kalaha seem to relish continually subverting listeners' expectations with each song, almost completely changing tack at any and every turn.  'Özgürüm Ben' swiftly follows and from the pop-inspired jazz of 'Hospabit', we have the deceptively authentic-sounding Turkish-laden number featuring vocals by Kalaha's frequent collaborator, Hilal Kaya, who blesses several of the album's tracks with a fantastic contribution throughout.

The clear album highlight arrives in the form of 'Hurt You Once Again' - featuring an excellent vocal from folk singer, Hjalte Ross, the track plays out like a recently unearthed, dark, 80s synthpop or new wave gem that had remained undiscovered for years.  

The first three tracks on 'Mystafa' very much tell the story of the whole album - these brilliantly executed and thrilling twists and turns continue across the project's ten songs and from very early on in the album, you learn to just trust in the course as set out by Kalaha and give yourself over to the journey they have planned.

Much will be made of the players' incredible skill in being able to present their music in such an array of varying styles and contexts and so much of this album delivers as a staggering accomplishment.  Nothing about 'Mystafa' comes across as an experiment.  While Kalaha are a group steeped within their affections for improvised music, the end result seems the product of a collective with a very clear and defined vision of their music and it's simply a joy to experience. 

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