REVIEW: Kyson - A Book Of Flying

Laura Kerry

If you know Berlin-based artist Kyson, it is likely under the guise of electronic music. And that wouldn’t be inaccurate; the composer, songwriter, and producer, who is Australian-born Jiam Kellet Liew, has exhibited all the hallmarks of the genre in his previous work—first and foremost, electronic instruments. His debut album from 2013, The Water’s Way, married analogue synths, acoustic instruments, and strange beat loops to create accompaniment for a makeshift living room dance floor, a gentler flavor among the hip-hop-infused electronic musicians dominating the roster at LA’s Friends of Friends Music.

Kyson’s newest release, A Book Of Flying, remains on the same roster and uses many of the same production techniques, but it pushes against the electronic music frame. Comprised of 11 gentle songs that are more tonally consistent than his last album, it pares down and warms up, filled with gorgeous and introspective vocal-driven songs. Sometimes, A Book Of Flying is folk music parading as electronic bleeps and blips—other times it is plain folk.

One of Kyson’s greatest strengths as a producer is his ability to seamlessly blend acoustic and electronic sounds. On “You,” a highlight of the album, he sets a foundation with acoustic guitar arpeggios, a trope throughout the album, that fade naturally into synth flourishes. The picking pattern, Kyson’s voice, and the melody all resemble classical guitar-wielding José González, but it comes as no surprise when the song switches entirely to electronic instruments after the first verse, then transforms back midway through the second. Acoustic guitar also leads the mix in “Flightless,” a song reminiscent of Kings of Convenience at their softest, as well as parts of the James Blake-like soulfulness of “Nice Circle,” the sparse “Black Dreaming,” and blends in other places, but it reverberates even when absent.

Kyson, though, does hold onto his electronic roots in his free-flowing structures. Folk typically follows a verse-chorus pattern, but, true to its name, A Book Of Flying has a floating quality. The structure is present in many places, but obscured by the ebbs and flows of different voices. That kind of movement is especially apparent on the entirely- and mostly-instrumental tracks—“As The Mind It Changes,” “Thank You For Everything Part II,” and “Latvia”—but it also dances along the repetitions in “Flightless,” the sporadic entrances and exits of voices on “Black Dreaming,” and the other quietly pretty songs.

Free from rigidity, A Book Of Flying is a celebration of beautiful sounds taken individually and in harmony. From the velvety tone of the guitar to the delicate bounce of synth blips, Kyson fills his music with food for the ears and soul. Even the lyrics—“All these feathers will make you fly with me again” (“Flightless”), “Let my brittle frame fall” (“A Song About The Future”)—revel in the satisfaction and bliss of small, pleasing noises. As Kyson moves away from the living room dance floor, he provides an exquisite backdrop for the plush carpet of a bedroom.