If a piece of music blends well with field recordings, there’s this sense of not knowing if the music is happening. Joseph Kamaru

From Nairobi, Joseph Kamaru is a Kenyan electronic musician, sound artist and improviser who articulates his work around field recordings and found sounds. Sharing his time between his home country and Berlin where he studies Sonic Arts, the musician has been recording under the KMRU moniker since the mid-2010s. A prolific artist, KMRU has already self-released a lot of music on his own Bandcamp page alongside several remarked LPs such as opaquer (Dagoretti Records – 2020), Logue (Injazero Records – 2021) and more recently Limen (2022), a collaboration with Paris-based electronic musician Aho Ssan.

Originally recorded in one take as an experimental, improvised and uninterrupted hour and a half of music and released on Vienna-based label Editions Mego on 23 July 2020 last as a double LP, Peel introduces a magnetic ambient set and an outstanding artistic statement.

KMRU - Peel (2020)
KMRU – Peel (2020)

Released digitally and as a tape two months later on Seil Records the same year, Jar can be approached as a companion recording to Peel. “Merging found sounds and analog warmth”, Jar is a superbly serene and immersive ambient reverie. Adopting a similar perspective, Peel further introduces sonic layers of circular loops slowly superimposing themselves over the previous iteration like waves of sound.

With every track playing like a self-contained sound installation, the music slowly fluctuates over 5 to 22 minute-long extended tracks to enter the realm of long-form, sustained and textural drone music. The haunting, looping and gradual nature of Peel evokes of course William Basinski’s landmark Disintegration Loops series. But if Basinski’s loops are subtractive, fading and decaying, KMRU’s Peel is incremental and cumulative.

Editions Mego · KMRU ‘Why Are You Here’ (EMEGO 289)

The music is definitely nocturnal, and the many high-pitched loops distributed throughout “Why You Are Here”, “Well” or “Klang” seem to introduce sparse light sources, all glowing intermittently like lighthouse beams, fireflies or artificial lights in the distance. If most tracks seem to be connected to the natural world, “Klang” has perhaps a more urban and industrial feel.

With the entire record playing as a hypnotic and transformative experience, a “deep” listening reveals a fantastic underworld of found sounds at low volume, each track like a parallel microcosm teeming with life – water flowing, bird songs, casual conversations. This is where the record becomes an in-depth reflection on the practice of listening – even from a cultural point of view.

Equipped with headphones and his handheld recording equipment, Joseph Kamaru is constantly interrogating his environment by going on “soundwalks” and generating new sound maps or immersive multimedia and sound installations. Every location of course – urban or rural – encompasses a distinct soundscape, and KMRU’s music stems from his awareness of these different sonic identities.

What do we hear when we move into a new place and how do we interpret it?

The more we listen, the more we hear things, even the sounds that we do not usually pay attention to. We are constantly listening and responding to the sounds and vibrations of our natural worlds, and our bodies are constantly being exposed to sounds.

The sound artist has showcased his approach in many videos, and in every case, the found sounds form the basis of new compositions. In other words, field recordings are not sampled at the mixing stage, they define and inform the overall direction of every piece.

Almost symphonic in nature, slowly ebbing and flowing into a crescendo over 22 minutes, the euphoric concluding title track is a moving listening experience tantamount to watching the sun rise and witnessing the imperceptible changes on the landscape induced by the gradual brightening of the day.