Music Reviews

Review: Exploring “Duality” on KAIN’s debut with Akhyla!

Duality of man: The intuitive and psychologically-confusing nature of mankind to be twofold. The state of being in two qualities.

As men, we tend to be in a constant state of flux, easing back and forth to find comfort between two poles. Sometimes, we cannot truly be ourselves without the other end of the spectrum rearing its head. And this is perhaps what one of Kuala Lumpur’s finest underground producers KAIN (real name Stephan Kain) aims to tackle with his highly personal debut album Duality.

KAIN has been known to produce music influenced by the likes of bass music, hip-hop, ambient experimental and field recordings. A member of Malaysian music collective Akhyla (also home to artistes like VMPRMYTH, Reddi Rocket, Yahna and Nemo), KAIN previously turned heads with his first two EPs — Σ (Sigma) and Headlock/Cold — as well as a collaborative album with VMPRMYTH titled Clairvoyants.

Having showed immense promise throughout past projects, KAIN in 2013 set out to create an album. Since then, he’s documented his ups and downs over the years in a musical project. And it shows.

content_2.MissingPeaceAlbum opener “Intro” features a twinkling melody paired with groovy drums, marking one of the more uptempo cuts on the album. With “Missing Peace” however, KAIN switches the mood with his arsenal of heavy brass and rhythms influenced by jungle/footwork and dubstep.

Following are tracks which bring the listener deeper into KAIN’s tribulations, but also features some interesting sound design.

“Well”, for example, features pitched down sounds of birds chirping from a Singaporean pet store, located near the artiste’s former home. Recorded on a handheld recording device, these animal calls have been flipped into something akin to the voices of people, screeching and crying.

Throughout the record KAIN uses sounds inspired by opposite regions of the world — influence from the West is evident through elements of dubstep, jungle, footwork and jazz, as traditional Eastern instrumentation (“Pretty Nights” in particular incorporates the guzheng) add to the record’s duality and fluidity.

content_3.FireDanceThe album presents a slew of features, with the likes of Singaporean producer FAUXE providing vocals on “Firedance”. Label-mate VMPRMYTH meanwhile appears on “Middle Passage” and “Downward” (which also features rising singer-songwriter Babylotus).

The former, written when both its creators were thousands of miles apart, was completed through email exchanges. Hip-hop dominates on the track, conceived while KAIN was in London.

Duality is also a breakthrough for Akhyla, which has been putting out records only available digitally. The label takes an entirely new approach with this record — physical copies of the album are available, though limited to 200 copies.

KAIN describes this album as an art piece, and he’s also commisioned visual artiste Dan Milk from Singaporean based label Phyla to create artworks for each track on the album — visible in both physical and digital copies of the abum booklet.

With changes in sound and rhythm as abrupt as they are sensible, Duality is a peek into the mind of a conflicted man. KAIN delivers what may be his greatest body of work so far.


Duality is available to stream on KAIN’s Soundcloud page and for purchase here! Also, catch KAIN and a host of artistes from Akhyla live in action at the Duality launch party on 28 May 2016 at Artebar, TREC!

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