Originality is a rare treat to behold. Even if the old line is true — “There’s nothing new under the sun.” — Australia-based Epkitan’s LP We Come From The Trees comes as close as one can expect to get these days.
Epkitan is a solo venture of Andrew Grimes (aka Grimes, not to be confused with the Canadian artist of the same name), one half of the dub duo Science Project along with Jad Dapat (aka 8man). Together they conceived the Dub Temple netlabel on which We Come From The Trees was published, along with dozens of other dub-inspired releases and beat tapes.
Inspiration for the album (along with much of Science Project’s music) came from Grimes’ childhood years spent on Buru, an Indonesian island in the South Pacific. With a linguist and an anthropologist as parents, Grimes had the rare opportunity to examine and employ actual recordings of traditional instruments, chants, and conversations of the Buru people in his productions. Such recordings found their way onto the album in the form of chopped and looped samples, sometimes forming the skeleton of a track, sometimes fleshing it out.
Taking a closer look, We Come From The Trees consists of 14 tracks (including intro, interlude, and outro) all titled in the native Buru tongue (I assume). While it’s difficult to know exactly what it all means, it’s not so difficult to appreciate universal constants like laughter and tone. When combined with more modern components like dub beats and synthesizers, we get a lovely marriage of the traditional and the contemporary.
The track “Geb Fuka” is a great example. It starts with laughter, a disconcerting whir (like a low-toned shehnai), and a reverberating bass drum, all of which produces an unsettling feeling. A rain pacifies the mood for a moment, but soon the whistle and drums return. The track rounds out with a joke and laughter. Ambient sounds of weather and wildlife make it easy to imagine everything unfolding beneath the dense jungle canopy.
“Sudah Lelé” opens with an echoing chant and tangible sub-bass. Hollow knocks fill the cracks and a dubstep wub wobbles back and forth. This all precedes an eerily close chant, like a ring of people has suddenly appeared around you singing in unison. Out of the jungle, a voice calls and another responds. Halfway through the track, most of the elements drop out emphasizing the remaining drum and wobble. Then it starts again: a voice, a crowd, another voice. Together they sing their song in its awe-inspiring intensity.
While sample-based music is far from original, I’ve never heard anything quite like Epkitan’s We Come From The Trees. His emphasis on traditional Buru instrumentation and chants combined with his personal dub flavor is as close to unique as anything I’ve heard in this genre. I applaud his efforts and look forward to more.
Epkitan – “Geb Fuka”
Epkitan – “Sudah Lelé”
We Come From The Trees release page