Last year, Jordan White took on a prodigious personal project to release an album via Soundcloud for each month of 2015. White was not seeking any commercial or critical acclaim from this endeavour however radio presenter and musician Tim Shiel, of recently relaunched label Spirit Level, stumbled upon this project, helping White under the name of Braille Face, to hone this collection of over 100 tracks into the highly anticipated debut release, Kōya.
Spirit Level, which was created by Shiel & Wally de Backer (AKA Gotye), is devoted to “developing and amplifying unique creative voices” which is clearly shown through the experimental Kōya. The unique, emotional journey of Kōya is further empowered by Braille Face‘s more than evident personal dedication to his craft.
After the disbandment of White‘s Melbourne folk collective, Playwrite (due to a desire to focus on other projects), he took this opportunity to develop his own, independent sound. The delightful hints of electronic influence from Playwrite’s 2015 release Cathedrals take centre-stage on Kōya, in an entrancing, synth-driven delight of experimental pop.
In the follow-up to BIGSOUND, Braille Face was featured in multiple lists of artists set to blow up after the annual music event. With the release of Kōya, as well as the overwhelmingly positive to the performance and visuals of his BIGSOUND appearance, this prediction rings true.
The noteworthy use of percussion within tracks ‘Backwards/Medicated’, ‘To Where We Sink’, ‘Tear’, and ‘Bristlecone Pine’ peppered throughout, provide subtle strokes of liveliness to the overall delicate, electric tone of the album. This creates an extremely animated journey for the listener, with the energy of the album constantly taking subtle twists and turns from almost poppy electric tracks to more quiet, sensual ballads.
The quirky ‘Oscillations’ breaks up the overall serenity of the album with delightful weirdness. What appears to be odd vocal samples are layered together into a strange, yet inviting melody. The emotional and instrumental stand-out definitely comes with the piano and vocal driven ‘Because’. White has noted that he wrote the track after separating with his partner after six years living together. The total minimisation of instrumentation highlights the devastation and emptiness of the feelings expressed in the track. The belief that the best art comes from heartbreak can be proven by this track, as White announced it the “fastest and easiest to appear” of the 100+ tracks recorded in 2015.
Finally, ‘Bad Metaphors’ provides an eerie conclusion to album, with unusual electric tones and the ghostly production of White’s vocals – combined with a sudden, off-beat finish. This adds yet another dimension of curiosity and emotion to the listener experience.
An exciting feature of the album’s release is featured on Braille Face‘s website. You can listen to Kōya while navigating a “unique interactive environment” inspired by the album art (illustrated by Max Löffler, who has done artwork for acts including Tame Impala and Future Islands).
The experience of listening to the Kōya is enhanced by the visuals with its intense and unique delivery – providing a very interesting, Radiohead-esque ambiance. It’s refreshing to see an artist such as Braille Face increasing listener engagement by providing a visual dimension to their music.
Kōya is out now via Spirit Level.