29 Jul Tender Instinct: ‘Commune’ Live Album Launch by Kin Leonn
In endless patience, the days abide. They write themselves: blue flourish and tender instinct. They are haunts and reveries and all manner of dwelling. They are seconds; they are years. They are forevermore.
– Album notes of Kin Leonn – ‘Commune’
It’s Friday evening and a faint cloud of smoke is emanating from the doors of the Esplanade Recital Studio. As we enter the intimate venue, made even more so by the slight haze, a hush comes over the audience. It doesn’t look like your usual electronic music gig, save for the mess of music gear and wires in the centre of the stage area.
‘Commune’ is Kin Leonn’s first full-length album and released by indie record label, Kitchen Label. It is one of several debut EPs/albums in Singapore that have been released on vinyl this year – a phenomenon that attests to the talent of these young producers, and the enduring relevance of vinyl.
Photo Credit: Luke Beh
Ambient has long been considered an obscure but significant music genre. Calm, atmospheric, and sometimes barely noticeable, ambient music was intended to reside in the background of the listener’s consciousness. Still, the genre continues to gain in global influence, partially due to prominent producers like Brian Eno and Ryuichi Sakamoto who continually redefine its boundaries whilst reaching new audiences through formats such as film and installation art.
Southeast Asia is rarely if ever mentioned in the history of ambient music. But that has been changed in recent years with indie labels like mü-nest (Malaysia) releasing notable ambient-electro records such as Hior Chronik’s Unspoken Words. Listeners have fully embraced these indie ambient producers who are often found lending their beats and production talent to other musicians from other genres, even folk and deep house.
Kin Leonn, as a product of both the established U.K. ambient music scene and Singapore’s indie music fraternity, brings a new dimension to the genre with ‘Commune’. Departing from the oft-held notion of ambient music as ‘thinking music’ or ‘music for airports’, this album is all about feelings.
Yes, feelings. Emotions. Sentiments.
As his set begins, Kin Leonn addresses the audience and with equal parts self-awareness and sincerity, asks us to allow our feelings to travel freely with the music… even if we fall asleep, which he would be fine with, too. After a few chuckles, silence fills the recital hall again. And so the communion begins.
Photo Credit: Luke Beh
‘Commune’ is an unobtrusive, melodic record perfect on headphones on a quiet night in. Performed live, it transforms into spiritual experience. The expanded sonic scope of a live set makes the most out of Kin Leonn’s musicianship and the listener’s mindful attention. One finally appreciates the full depth of emotion expressed in every moment of the album, from the minimal to the all-consuming.
“There Were Days” and other piano-heavy tracks gain most from Kin Leonn’s sensitive performance. The found sounds sampled throughout “Shinrin-Yoku I” and “Shinrin-Yoku II”, take on new materiality in the absence of background noise. Kin Leonn’s restrained improvisations give the audience more space to appreciate the beauty of his spare arrangements, and more importantly, space to imagine and dream.
Listening to ‘Commune’ in an audience of hundreds is quite the revelation. Musical and emotional experiences today are often lonely. But sharing them creates bonds.
After Kin Leonn’s final note, the audience stirred from silence as if waking up from a dream.
Kin Leonn’s skills in navigating the emotional depths in music comes from talent and practice, but his desire to bring the listener along in these explorations is seeded in pure artistic ambition. ‘Commune’ tells with music an important and comforting truth – that our emotions come from a shared universe, even if they are experienced through individual consciousness. Though our feelings are always our own, that doesn’t mean we are alone.
Special thanks to Ricks Ang from Kitchen Label and Luke Beh for their support and assistance with this article.