KXL :: Accelerator
For all the criticism aimed at the growing popularity of MySpace, its true strength lies in its ability to get indie/underground music heard by just about everyone. Not since the p2p online downloading craze kick-started by Napster, has an internet phenomenon so radically changed the way we listen to music. The site is often the first place that discerning music lovers turn to, when checking out a buzz band or artist. Back in 2006, in certain circles on the afore-mentioned MySpace, chatter was bubbling up about a mysterious New York based producer calling himself KXL. As far as monikers went, it ranked among the most bizarre. Turns out, the K stood for Krishna, as in Hinduism's blue-skinned, flute-playing God but the lesser known literal translation from Sanskrit is "black" or "dark." Obviously this brotha had some kind of Desi connection and the video of his first single "Mash It Up" posted on the social networking site confirmed just that. Most of us know him by his alter ego - a far cry, musically, from the dubby dancehall-electro of KXL.
At the risk of blowing up his spot (and the mystery), for which we apologize in advance, KXL is actually Rohan of Roots fame. While Roots had heavy doses of his Jamaican-Guyanese Indian heritage, it was largely a take on the Asian Underground with a twist. That twist was a calm, dignified, electro-lounge one that resulted in a truly memorable debut. The remix package (Roots RMX) also showed no signs of what Rohan had in store for us, except for the placing of one, odd track at the end of it. "Dub Vibration," with its strong production (dhol licks and all) and rap by MC Chori Sala had an energy and vibe that came out of nowhere that made it as heavy sounding in a Bhangra party as it did in a dance hall full of Yardies. It is exactly that vibe that runs throughout Accelerator. Think of KXL as Rohan's edgier, more outspoken doppelganger. While Rohan is who we want as a soundtrack to our night in, KXL is who we want to bring to our next warehouse party, especially one with a bass heavy, sound system.
First cut and EthnoTechno name-checking single "Mash It Up" is the perfect start to events as the bass thumps and snares bounce. With its almost non-sensical lyrics, this track is pure party fodder and achieves its desired effect. "Izwat" starts off with the diwali riddim made famous by the likes of Sean Paul. It ends up being one of the most upbeat, dance friendly songs on the album with Jeni Fujita of the Refugee All Stars shining on the chorus. Droney synth programming and a strong lyrical delivery by KXL make this a perfect accompaniment to "Dub Vibration." "Fistful O Dynamite" is electro-grime with 80s-influenced breaks and fellow New Yorker EJ Sebian shows up on and brings along his soul for "Liar Song."
Things get extremely introspective, lyrically, on "Blindsided" and "Soul Trippin." In fact, most of the lyrical content on this album tend to deal with identity. While identity has been a theme that has been rehashed hundreds of times before by Asian artists - Rohan himself doing so broadly on Roots - what is new this time around is the delivery of that very same theme. Somehow things are looking up.
The throwback-to-the-old school drum n' bass of "S.P.I.T." soon gives way to another MySpace favorite, "Moment of Silence." Beat-wise, dub takes center stage here, as Noush Skaugen delivers haunting vox along with KXL's conscious lyrics about the state of affairs in the world in his inimitable, lazed flow. Our lighters are up, KXL.
M.I.A.'s Arular left most of us wanting. Her island-dancehall-electro-grime was a much needed middle finger to pop music. Accelerator by KXL (could that three letter acronym be just pure coincidence?) is the closest thing to that to have come along. While this may not make the same dents in critical and commercial circles that Arular did, there's enough socially-conscious, patois-delivered, beat-friendly dance music on here to get us into the next year.