By Russell Warfield
For someone who’s ostensibly so prolific – working on songs since he got obsessed with a little electric piano at the age of four – Kwes hasn’t amassed a desperately substantial body of work since releasing his debut single ‘Hearts In Home’ over three years ago. There’s been an addictive second single, a collaborative mixtape with fellow pop screwball Micachu, and an EP of instrumentals, but we’re still waiting for something which feels like his definitive, flag-in-the-ground release. And, although it’s his first collection of bona fide vocal-songs, and debut release through the natural outlet of Warp , Meantime still doesn’t give the impression that Kwes has truly arrived – just three songs (the opening track being an ambient sketch which bleeds into the EP’s single ‘Bashful’) not boasting enough substance to showcase his clearly considerable talents effectively, nor making a truly lasting impact on the listener.
What’s on offer is largely impressive, it must be admitted. Take lead single ‘Bashful’, as he bends a barrage of syllables around a jittery little ear-hook, all blissed out, chewed up electronics and a softly throbbing pulse beat – a pop song which sits alongside the ever-impressive London electronic scene, but with a much warmer, fuzzy sense of colour to it than genre pioneers like Blake or Burial. And while the following track ‘Honey’ offers up more of the same with another loved up choral refrain, it’s the final track ‘Igoyh’ which really hints at Kwes’ mastery of electronic creation, taking a scatter shot collection of bass-coming-out-of-nowhere sounds and clattering typewriter beats and melding them together to create the backdrop to another lyrical sentiment of love and contentment, winding and developing its varied textures over an engrossing seven minutes. It’s a centrepiece (or, a should-be centrepiece – but sadly a premature closer) so well constructed that it makes you go back to the other tracks and dig around more thoroughly with your ear, revealing a sophisticated treasure trove of oddly juxtaposed sounds which were initially masked by the simplicity of the vocal melodies.
The result, however, is a sadly truncated EP which – beginning with a two minute ambient passage borrowing a melody from it’s successive track, and ending with a seven minute unrestrained showcase of ability – ends up feeling imbalanced, and puts itself in the peculiar position of seeming simultaneously unfinished and overstuffed. The half-spoken verses of these songs, with their intensely British enunciation, call to mind the current UK electronic scene which the best moments of this EP are more than able to stand up to.
However, these songs aren’t substantiated enough to justify the occasional drip-feeding of EPs approach favoured by aforementioned artists like Burial – these are songs which, although enjoyable, place far too much weight on their simplistic, repeated chorus refrains, and require a record of greater length to effectively explore their unique and proficient sunset-hues of sound and melody to an extent which is truly satisfying. As with his other releases, there’s plenty of promise, and some deft execution displayed on Meantime, but with the unfurling of each tantalisingly truncated release, the desire for Kwes to stop finding his feet and just put out an LP becomes stronger and stronger.