text: Laura Phillips
When everyone’s a DJ, artists have to work harder to set themselves apart. For Berlin-born musician Arnold Kasar, it’s a pocket of collaborative projects and an open approach to composition that’s the key.
He’s a classically trained pianist working under a wider umbrella– electro ambience and key chords are the alchemy of his new record, The Piano Is Smoking. And yes, with a Tom Waits nod in tote.
While the album is his first as a solo artist, Kasar is by no means a stranger to the scene. Teaming with the now defunct band Nylon, he’s also worked extensively with the renowned German record label Sonar Kollektiv and fellow Berliner Friedrich Liechtenstein. Still, in The Piano Is Smoking Kasar can’t completely stray from his collaborative tendencies: Japanese artist Mami Konishi (AKA Minguss) lends her voice to the emphatic track Solo Sunny.
The LP assembles lo-fi, lounge instrumentals to sweep between mechanical and classical dispositions. Bouncy loops of piano take tracks like Tango Del Mar to jazz-fuelled heights while the slow-moving ballad Seven Years of Silence makes for more of a chilly romance. In Put a Light on Me, Kasar takes a stab at singing (another first for him) only to have vocals slightly overwhelm the song’s smooth instrumental build. (Perhaps it’s the one too many “do-do-do-dos” that’s the culprit.)
He’s described himself as eclectic and completely open stylistically, and this is an album to represent that. The mood is optimistic, curious, experimental– a reflection of an artist still evolving. Though, even in all its flamboyance and clean juxtapositions, the album’s minimalist aesthetic will not appeal to all. Piano work is catchy but uncomplicated; the electro side is understated but technically tight.
His trajectory shows an individual on a quest to invent, and with his track record and a musicality that works, I have a feeling the best is yet to come.