Klein – Harmattan
Harmattan, the latest project from London based multidisciplinary composer Klein, opens with a simple enough gesture; a piano aria. But as for solo / piano reaches its apex, the chords scatter and spin erratically before surging into the sparse syncopation of roc. It’s intrinsic to the album’s namesake; the harmattan is a season that occurs in West Africa when the sands of the Sahara are swept into the atmosphere from the North, covering the sky and everything around it in a strange, otherworldly haze. And this is exactly how Klein executes this collection of ambient and avant-garde classical music, released via Pentatone.
Phrases of orchestral classical are disintegrated to grains of sand and thrown in a hundred different directions to cloud and condense as something entirely new. Through this fog, moments of unexpected cycles and patterns emerge. On roc, it’s the firework display of electronic noise that explodes from the ether behind Klein’s brass improvisations. On skyfall, it’s the way Charlotte Church’s voice is warped into abysmal loops that sound like nocturnal creatures moaning in the dark. Things get progressively more labyrinthine the further into Harmattan you sink, with textures evolving and patterns unravelling, weaving a subtle narrative of Klein’s own complex identity.
Growing up in London with Nigerian parents, her African diasporic heritage becomes as much a source of information as inspiration for Klein, who pulls motifs from this cultural tapestry and clashes them together toward increasing degrees of abstraction. trapping in C major hides its parts beneath a relentless industrial whirl that could be grime, like coins in a washing machine, while her more ambient soundscapes such as the ebbing ray play on frequencies that elicit visceral and emotive responses.
Harmattan, like its namesake, is a deeply challenging piece of work that refuses to settle. But it’s between the microbes of dust and amongst the fractured beams of sunlight that Klein finds the metaphor for diasporic existence. Swept up from one place and thrust into another, Harmattan is a study into what it feels like to make a home where you do not belong, hanging in the air at all times with no discernable point of origin and no clear idea of where to go next.
See the video for roc from Harmattan below.