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Posted on January 2nd, 2013 (9:58 am) by Matt Essert

"Almost-anywhere" ambient producer Mkaio (née Matthew Kammerer) has tried to promote himself and his first album, A Far Off Horizon, by writing: "Deep in the mountains of Hawai'i, buried under pine needles and brush, a cracked and worn cassette tape was found. The cover and tape were handmade, the design and packaging, faded and aged. The tape itself appeared to be a recording of a vinyl double-album, its contents using elements of past musical archetypes, and while the sound is dated, it seems strangely prescient - the work of an artist enveloping himself in the past while breathing in the present.” For so many reasons, this is terrible. Sure, there are legends and origin stories surrounding albums, but it helps if they’re actually true and if the album is actually good. In this case, Mkaio has failed at both.

Released over the summer under PURPL Records (which seems to only represent two bands and is betting on Mkaio), A Far Off Horizon is a very lengthy album (about 1 hour, 17 minutes), which Mkario says "incorporates elements of pop, electronic, shoegaze, chillwave, drone, ambient, and minimalist music, as well as field recordings and experimental sounds." Oh, but if this were only so. Pretty much every one of the 16 tracks falls within the same formula of safe, vanilla, chillwave synths undercut with a collection of stock beats, all assembled by what feels like a wannabe composer on his laptop in his bedroom. Some of the tracks do feature some vocal works (which I’ll get into momentarily) best described as a weird mix of grand, sweeping, trance vocal lines and awkward white-guy pseudo-rapping.

Not everything is bad. There are certainly some bright spots and fairly successful moments of layered sounds — songs like "Summer Heart" and "Brush Of The Cheek" are fairly innocuous. Unfortunately, none of them are especially inventive or creative; they mainly feel as though they have been recycled from mediocre artists who’ve already stolen them from someone else. The fact Mkaio writes on his website, "Music should be a derivation, never a duplication," only makes it worse — Mkaio realizes this isn’t right, but is doing it anyways.

This kind of thing is perhaps one of the biggest strikes against Mkaio. Even if you disregard this vanilla record, Mkaio is sure talking a big game about himself. Rather than focus on the music, Mkaio seems to have put more of his time into promoting himself and the Mkaio brand with a variety of heinous websites, pretentious writings, random graphics, t-shirts, and marketing ploys — all sizzle, no steak. He writes, “[my] music does not conform to any style or convention, but rather plays on audio archetypes & expectations, fusing field recordings, acoustic performances, electronic elements & engineering occasionally with vocals and lyrics.” While presumably referring to himself as an independent artist, he writes, “indie music … is designed for the independent listener. Its music will not please everyone. Its content, lyrics, melodies, styles and substances will not necessarily be catchy, singable, simple or standard. It may be slight or deeply dense. If that music speaks to you, then you will love it. If it does not, then leave it and move on. That is the goal of the independent artist.” I’m not sure what were Mkaio’s intentions, but if he was really trying to say he’s somehow invented some kind of music not everyone will like, but is really amazing and only the right people will “get it,” he’s sorely mistaken.

Perhaps the most tangible exhibition of A Far Off Horizon’s shortcoming can be found in the tracks featuring vocals, which are mostly overcome by a mixture of pretentiousness and an almost impressive lack of creativity. First, take “Hold On, But Not For Me,” in which Mkaio belts, “You know you’re solipsistic / you know you’re loves sadistic.” In case you didn’t know, solipsism is basically the philosophical idea the mind is the only thing we know for sure to exist, which leads to a useless lyric. In "Sunsets," Mkaio tries a bit too hard to make friends when he "raps”: “When it comes to this life, I guess it’s a test / And when it comes to my friends, you know you’re the best / Pieces of me hoping in peace you rest / And that’s the way it goes, I guess." In “Naked In The Moonlight," he tries to go deep with, "Tonight, we’ll take off our clothes / dive in H20, and let all this go, yeah / This is how God made us, and this is how God, she made us yeah." (Oh, yeah, I almost forgot, Mkaio loves to throw in a lot of "yeah"s … just because.) The ‘80s Brit-pop reject "All Night" is capped off with enticing refrains of “Come on, come on, come on, come on tonight / Come on, come on, come on, naked in moonlight." How creative.

It’s somewhat impressive Mkaio sat down to make a record and actual did it (and with minimal equipment). It seems he simply got ahead of himself and was more interested in becoming a famous producer whom everyone loves because he’s so cool than in producing good, interesting music. In certain ways, ambient music can be easy to make: you just layer a bunch of synth lines on top of each other and add a couple of electro hits here and there and throw in some heavy bass lines and simple beats. The idea is basic, but the execution is terribly difficult, and A Far Off Horizon simply did not perform. Mkaio admits this is an experimental album. From what I understand about science, a lot of experiments fail, and unfortunately, this record is no different.

Track List:
1. A Far Off Horizon
2. The First Kiss
3. The Gold Was On You
4. Light At The End
5. Hold On, But Not For Me
6. Tried & True
7. Summer Heart
8. All Night
9. Fall For You
10. Naked In The Moonlight
11. Brush Of The Cheek
12. Maui
13. Is This Love
14. A Prelude
15. Sunsets
16. Adagio For Jen

Salt Lake City, Hawaii, Mkaio, A Far Off Horizon, Review,
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

34 / 100
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