Velvet Ghetto is a provocative title fro a piece of music, and I’m immediately drawn to conclusions where raw R&B vocals melt into soft synthetic textures, like Prince on an Autre ne Veut ticket. It’s a description that’s not far off describing the music of Kamikaze, a musical duo that build electronic dance music on the foundation of their Jazz origins, and represents it in the form of electronica pop with a sombre disposition. After a string of singles from the group on Swiss outfit Mouthwatering, Velvet Ghetto finds Kamikaze working within the parameters of a concept to bring their art to life on this occasion. The concept revolves around the idea of a velvet ghetto, a digital glass tower from where we all cast our insignificant rocks. “Last winter we were in my room in Berlin, recording new songs.” Alexandre Maurer from the band picks up the story of how the concept came to life during an email exchange. “Fabio was looking for some lyrics for the untitled song ‘Velvet Ghetto’ while I was laying in his bed with 39 degrees fever. During a lack of inspiration he asked for some creative input and I said: ‘write about me, about all of us, isolated in our cosy rooms while scrolling through Facebook and complaining about our lives’.“ Fabio’s lyrics took shape when describing the room and the concept soon consumed the whole album through the lyrics. Tracking the first world problems of our generation Fabio and Alex found a spring board for their lyrics in the concept. “Most of the lyrics in the songs are about the luxury problems of our generation. As 80s-90s kids, we felt that we were free to do everything we wanted with our lives. We had a blank sheet to write our success story on. As we grew up, we found that everyone else in our generation had the same expectations, and that there was no place for everyone. We had to learn to deal with compromises. In the lyrics we try to be self-ironic about this attitude, about always feeling kind of inappropriate, about not being as successful as we planned to be. I find it quite funny actually. We all know that’s not what matters in the end, but we’re still kind of addicted to these feelings.“
For the most part however these ideas were resigned to the lyrics, with the music taking shape around the essence of Kamikaze’s particular sound, influenced by their Jazz education and inspired by the sound pallette the work around. “We like to have a mix between the warmth of analogue, old instruments and vintage gear with glitching digital sounds.” Velvet Ghetto is to-day the most successful execution of their practises and marks a unique evolution in the band’s progress. The pop silhouette of their music, which is brought to life through Fabio Pinto’s entrancing vocals, gets diffracted by the electronic elements pulling and tearing at the lush subtle instrumentation of the experienced musicians. Alexander pins this evolution down to the “electronic component” that has made a home for itself in their music, but is quick to suggest that Kamikaze bring “something more organic” to the music, playing their instruments live for the most part during recording. “We like to hear that light un-tightness that the human factor brings to it.” It’s exactly the human element in the bass motif from Crestfallen – a song that was previous released as a single – that gets this listener every time as it loiters around certain notes a little longer, stretching like a rubber band before snapping back into percussion. Alongside Fabio’s text, which is “open critic to our human condition in the actual society”, the human factor is very strong. There’s something in Kamikaze’s music that speaks to the listener on an intuitive level, something that doesn’t require a concerted effort from the listener, but can often encourage a personal moment of reflection. “The listener can choose whatever message he wishes. We know we won’t change the world but we think that music can transport a few messages that people can understand and let them reflect.”
Kamikaze’s creative processes stem from the very same intuitive level they wish to encourage in their listeners. For Velvet Ghetto they’ve been somewhat influenced by the likes of Flying Lotus and FKA Twigs, to bring that electronic component to their music, but at the same time, they’ve made it their own, turning to someone like David Bowie for inspiration at the same time. It has conspired in a sound, where although parallels can be drawn to James Blake and Mount Kimbie, there’s also something more musical in their executions. Healthy harmonic progressions and appealing melodic motifs drift effortlessly through the popular forms alongside their captivating sound design. Kamikaze make intellectual pop music where a key change is never too far away, and modern static drones are negated for temporal movement. It’s all there on Velvet Ghetto. From Fabio’s lyrics to the instrumentation and their electronic components, Velvet Ghetto is Kamikaze at it’s most complete.