Kiran Leonard is an indecently good musician, bearing in mind his tender age of 20. This isn’t even his debut… Grapefruit has lots to show off, from fully rock-action passages to chamber orchestra sections and even some radio hiss ambience, all cemented by Leonard’s remarkable voice. Released by the Moshi Moshi label.
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In a recent interview teenage Oldham wonder kid Kiran Leonard complained that he wasn’t interested in any music that ‘just comes out’ of artists suggesting that he wouldn’t rate any music that isn’t poured over obsessively. For one this invalidates such seemingly composed with ease works such as ‘God Only Knows’ but also explains why his own music is so damn complicated. He thinks and thinks and probably at times overthinks.
‘Grapefruit’ is an extremely dense work of twisting turning alt rock that initially sounds very similar to Jeff Buckley especially on 16 minute lead track ‘Pink Fruit’ which has some glorious chord changes and alarming shifts of tempo. Leonard's voice doesn’t hold a candle to Buckley’s (who’s could?) but structurally it is an impressive work. Leonard has obviously studied his math rock history books and perhaps delved as far back as King Crimson. ‘Ondor Gongor’ for example sort of sounds like Jeff Buckley being overtaken by the ghost of the Magic Band. It’s in the discordant sections of such tracks that his loose compositional style and the angular flurry of notes reminds me of the similarly out there Richard Dawson. Leonard however has no trad/blues background, these are clipped new wave notes. Baroque strings reminiscent of John Cale are utilised in ‘Caiaphas in Fetters’ - his voice can be hard work at the best of times but when matched with plaintive orchestral sounds it’s like a turd on a trifle. The twanging, loose limbed avant punk of ‘Exeter Services’ therefore is almost a welcome relief amid such complexity - simply a killer match-rock riff and powerful drumming.
So what we have here is a wildly ambitious album with many qualities. I don’t think Leonard is as good as he thinks he is - he loses your attention from time to time particularly on the latter third and rejoices in being ‘difficult’ which can come across as a bit contrived. But large parts of this sprawling chaotic album are inspiring.
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