For the better part of their seven years together, Chris Davids and Liam Ivory have taken their Maribou State project to nearly every corner of the globe. From playing lavish events in Ibiza to DJ’ing in intimate clubs in India and New Zealand, they have gradually established a reputation as one of electronic music’s most cinematic and creative duos. Their lush and brilliant debut album, Portraits, demonstrated “their ability to create multiple moods without overdosing the listener in synthetics.” It was also an inward-looking and isolated experience, where each song was immersive yet mesmerizing. Their sophomore album, however, sees the pair extend themselves and create one of the year’s most impressive records.
Kingdoms In Colour is an expansive and far-reaching enterprise, and it is dazzling. The record is Davids and Ivory stretching their arms out wide and inviting the world to join their hypnotic party. Their awe-inspiring downtempo approach remains, but it is layered with influences and sounds from their extensive travels. For instance, “Beginners Luck” fuses strings and Middle Eastern textures to create a feeling of a midnight journey across the Sahara. Indian woodwinds – possibly a bansuri – are added to the intoxicating “Kingdom”. Although the music is sultry and dance-oriented, the duo deliver a clever story of a manipulative man sitting in his ivory tower.
“Oh, I, I’m blowing smoke in their eyes
Here from my throne.
I play them like my own.
Oh, I’m throwing stones from great heights
Here from my throne.
Oh, I, I’m blowing smoke in their eyes
White lies don’t show
In this kingdom that I own.”
The most striking numbers of their musical mosaic, though, comes in the form of two songs. The masterfully arranged “Nervous Tics” is one of the album’s standout tracks. A sample of the duo playing a Guzheng, a traditional Chinese stringed instrument, is included, and its addition heightens the track’s mystical and seductive charm. Long-time collaborator and partner Holly Walker, meanwhile, further amplifies the seduction with her silky cool vocals. As sensual as the song sounds, the three craft a tale of distance and isolation. Walker, specifically, alluringly sings:
“I’m picking up more nervous tics
You’re staying inside, playing dead.
So, all this longwave silence
Can we please put it to bed?”
The second is “Feel Good”, which features Houston psychedelic innovators Khruangbin. Maribou State’s dark, cinematic textures are noticeable, creating the seductive atmosphere of an evening in Ibiza. Khruangbin’s psychedelic touches, though, stand out, particularly Laura Lee’s enchanting vocals and bass line. Their contribution takes the listener from the Spanish party island to an oasis in the middle of the Al Khatim Desert.
There are still moments, however, where Davids and Ivory stay closer to home and their spellbinding origins. The multi-sensory “Turnmills” is like an exquisite art installation that you cannot keep your eyes off. It is day and night converging, where beauty is seen in the flashes of color and the depths of the darkness. The mysterious “Slow Heat” fusses a touch of jazz and French film-noir. Walker’s stunning vocals cut through the duo’s trembling production, and she enchants us with a tale of a young woman falling into the deep chasms of the night and her own memories.
Not everything is dark and bleak in Maribou State’s world. A taste of freedom and the first days of spring arrives in the blissful “Vale”. It’s the most subdued track on the album, yet it is as breathtaking as watching a golden eagle’s first flight over the Alps. Closer “Kāma”, meanwhile, is the duo at their most radiant and ravishing. Taken from the Hindu word for “wish” or “desire”, the track personifies its meaning in every way. From the stirring strings to the scintillating melody to the transcendent vocals, Maribou State have crafted a gorgeous, spellbinding dream. A dream that one does not wish to awaken from, but instead to live within in it for all of eternity. This also describes the effect of Kingdoms In Colour, whose power, beauty, and grace are to behold and never to be forgotten.
Kingdoms In Colour is out now via Counter Records, and it is also available on Bandcamp. Davids and Ivory have few tour dates in Europe this autumn, and information is available here. They will most surely be touring again in 2019, as they search for new inspirations.
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