Review: Citysynthesis – Citysynthesis (Noland, May 28)

a1593287714_10Nairobi musicians, artists, and community builders DJ Raph (Raphel Kariuki) and Sophia Bauer team up for an eponymous debut as Citysynthesis, the latest in a series of collaborations the pair have undertaken involving each other as well as sound enthusiasts from all over the populous Kenyan city in the interest of mapping its sonic characteristics and geography (read more about these ventures, particularly the World’s Loudest Library and Sound of Nairobi, here). Despite Kariuki’s musical background in beat-centric electronic music, “Pulpit” begins the digital-only EP in a rather formless, abstract manner, setting the stage for the sort of urban soundscape dissections that are used throughout: fragmentary, volatile, textural, but not to the point where a single iota of natural atmosphere of is lost. This is especially apparent on the following “Sitaki Kuongea Mob,” which seems to simultaneously deconstruct and reconstruct some sort of street performance, the jarring jump-cuts and splitting rhythms woven together with persistent speech. Then, on “Trio,” it’s the voices that become the object of structural recontextualization, floating ephemerally around a seething center like the beating heart and lifeblood of the city itself. The many paradoxes upon which Citysynthesis is built extend to the actual effect it has as well; one feels as if these meticulous assemblages convey more potent information about what it means to live in Nairobi than simple unaffected field recordings would, and yet it’s difficult to say exactly why that is. My theory is that with passionate residents Kariuki and Bauer acting as deeply involved sonic filters, anything they create will be imbued with the same love and appreciation for their city as is held within them.

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