London artist Klein features as one of four cover stars in the third edition of Fact’s print publication, captured in the singular vision of photographer Gabriel Moses and in conversation with her friend and collaborator Curtly Thomas. To mark the occasion, Klein excavates a fragmentary soundscape that finds deeply expressive and personal texture within dissonance and disruption.
Poet, critic and theorist Fred Moten describes Klein, inimitably, as “discomposer and multiple instrument,” situating the London based, British Nigerian artist within the Black radical music tradition among those who have redefined and continue to redefine what it is to speak, sing and play. Her virtuosic practice sees her adopting, rearranging and discarding the conventions of discipline, genre and form so rapidly that it can, at times, be tough to keep up. At once prolific and obfuscating, at any given moment she might be quietly uploading new music to her YouTube channel, currently the sole imprint of her internet presence, collaborating with some of the greatest artists and musicians of our time, including Mark Leckey and Mica Levi, or staging ambitious live performances in some of the most important venues in the world, such as London’s Barbican Centre, or Berlin’s Volksbühne. These shows, sprawling works incorporating improvised movement, stand up comedy, live MCs and spirallic performance, are central to grasping where Klein is at as a composer, director and artist, corralling a rich history of influences spanning viral videos, UK grime, cultural theory, mid-Noughties hip-hop and r&b and intimate details from her own life, entangled in everything, all at once, constantly rotating in flux, sensuous and spiritual in equal measure.
All of this in the wake of Harmattan, an eerie and beautiful collection of restless (dis)compositions for broken violin, Yamaha keyboard, trumpet, drum machine, guitar, harmonica and tuba, described by Moten as “a soundtrack of epic revolt against beginnings and ends, drill trapped and re-released into release from communication into lush, unbounded share.” Klein guides us through a sonic dust cloud, which is also a West African season, which is also a supernatural feeling of belonging, through Roc Nation and Ibadan, amidst postcode wars, hand in hand with Charlotte Church and Jawnino, disparate voices melted together in the “broke brocade and sand” of Harmattan. She pulls off a similar trick with her Fact mix, excavating a fragmentary soundscape that finds deeply expressive and personal texture within dissonance and disruption. Of the mix, Klein says: “this is for the topline swolla, shotters, ballers, opps, Ester Dean, Making The Band, Wasiu Ayinde, all the topline dons, without y’all I wouldn’t be here.” Charting her own Black radical music tradition, joining the dots between pop music’s industry insiders, song writers, her own musical idols and the drama of her own life, Klein swerves through foundational tracks, her own compositions and twisted samples, chopping and screwing jaggedly between musical moments in service of diaristic directness, or as Moten puts it in Black and Blur, “total construction as a means of achieving immediate utterance.”
Taking the jubilant bounce of fújì, a Yoruba genre named after Japan’s highest peak and developed out of wéré, improvisational music performed to wake Muslims before dawn during Ramadan, as a marker by which to navigate the music of her life, Klein teases out the connective tissue between avant-garde composition, spiritual songs, nu-metal and hip-hop. She suffuses the sounds of Igwe Remi Aluko, a contemporary star of the genre, with her own original score, adding harmonica and keys to Aluko’s spirit-steadying vocals. She slows the royalty-fee OST of YouTube channel Grace For Purpose’s video delineating the contemporary resonance of the biblical story of Samson and Delilah to a melancholy smudge, before smearing sampled voice and instrumental unrecognizable with the dense feedback and frazzled guitar of Korn’s ‘Here To Stay,’ perhaps a nod to Dizzee Rascal’s iconic sampling of the track in ‘Sirens,’ another gesture back towards Klein’s formative musical experiences. Snapping back to the present with TisaKorean’s slow-mo, sci-fi sex anthem, she wrings renewed expression from interrupting her own flow, clanging and clashing to create singular shifts in sound. It’s a technique born out formally when she infuses unknown dread and churning tension into a recording of a private birthday celebration of Wasiu Ayinde, otherwise known as fújì innovator K1 De Ultimate, with a frozen synth dirge, a disorientating instance of dissonance mirrored in the stark contrast between the doom-laden horns and ecstatic delivery of Shady and Katie Got Bandz joyously chanting “eat the team” in the classic Chicago drill album ‘Go In’.
Shady is overwhelmed by the impossible jazz simulations and Max/MSP patchwork of Aho Ssan; Klein’s own orchestral reprieve of ‘Michael’s Interlude’ running into the lo-fi hip-hop irruption of the recently released ‘XXL’ gives way to the exhumed dancehall of French beatmaker ma2t; Aye Jae Beats’ flex dance music is screwed to a slurred shuffle, as Klein wrongfoots the dance once again, shaking you off any beat you may have been riding, before winding back up into the fleet-footed skip of Wasiu Ayinde, who reappears rejuvenated, his classic 1990 Fuji Collections allowed to roll uninterrupted, space made for the king. Stepping into the spotlight, Klein blesses us with an unreleased cut, a lilting sound collage of overlapping chatter and piercing vocalisations, shot through with noisy loops reminiscent of Aaron Dilloway and pitch shifting turntablism in the style of Shiva Feshareki. Arranging, notably, the religious music and voices of Nigerian Islamic royalty Rukayat Gawat and Lady Evang, Bolatito Oke, a.k.a Malaika Jah in contrapuntal dichotomy, Klein closes with a single, ferocious spin back, instantaneously connecting spiritual musics of west Africa back through the jagged soundscape of her own musical traditions, as well as to the club and DJ culture of her home. It’s a jarring anticlimax that is, in spite of itself, the perfect final note, a closing and breaking of the loop.
Find Klein on YouTube. The third edition of Fact’s print publication launches later this week.
Igwe Remi Aluko – ‘Oleku’ (Klein’s OST Edit)
‘Be Careful Of This Spirit | Men and Women’s Biggest Nightmare’ [YouTube Rip]
Korn – ‘Here to Stay’
TisaKorean – ‘Backseat’
Wasiu Ayinde’s Birthday [YouTube Rip] (Klein edit)
Shady – ‘Go in’
Aho Ssan – ‘Simulacrum III’
Klein – ‘Michael’s interlude’
Klein – ‘XXL’
ma2t – ‘bustagreed’
Aye Jae Beats – ‘Insiders (Outsiders Part 2)’ (Klein Choppin N Screwin Edit)
Wasiu Ayinde – ‘Fuji Collections’
Klein – ‘In From The Cold’ (Demo)
Charlotte x Joe Interlude (Klein’s Media Trained Edit)
Klein – ‘Comedy Style’ / ‘Skyfall’ [Feat. Charlotte Church] (Edit) [Feat. Rukayat Gawat]
Lady Evang, Bolatito Oke, a.k.a Malaika Jah – ‘Adorin Motito’