words by Mark Wilson

It’s a damn good time to be making music in Perth. Just ask Koi Child, the up-and-coming Fremantle-based band who’s psychedelic mix of hip-hop, funk and jazz has been prowling around the local scene for the better part of two years. The combination of two other Fremantle bands, Kashikoi and Child’s Play, they have been extending their reach nation-wide with their singles ‘Black Panda’ and ‘1-5-9’.

Produced by fellow Perth star Kevin Parker (of tame Impala) – an undeniable musical influence on Koi Child’s sound – they are well on the way to making waves of their own in the spotlight. Riding off this success comes the group’s second national headline tour, in support of their debut, self-titled album, Koi Child.

The album is filled with tracks more reminiscent of a casual jam session than deliberated, well-rehearsed songs, with this laid-back feel especially evident on tracks like ‘Slow One’, ‘1-5-9’ and ‘Preserve’. ‘Slow One’ shows the jazz influence on the group, with the smooth, velvet-y horn fills and solos the kind of thing you’d expect from 80’s soul-funk. The bass line in ‘1-5-9’ shows strong smooth/acid jazz influences, although the song as a whole is a much more upbeat track made to get you grooving along. Hard hitters ‘Touch ‘Em’ and ‘Black Panda’ keep the casual, improvisational feel while forcing the group’s hand at showing the effort put into making the tracks. The structuring of ‘Touch ‘Em’, with the funky, clav- and syncopation-heavy verses contrasted by the steady momentum and instrument fade-outs in the solo-improv-jam section, acts as the perfect example of the thought gone into the arrangement.

Parker’s influence is integral to the album’s soundscape. Washy, sweeping and at times fuzzy vocal hooks, heavily compressed drums fills (especially notable in ‘Rap Trash’), gaping echo-y delays, bass lines that are equal parts silky smooth and grittily raw, and swirly psychedelic keys and brass throughout the album are a constant reminder of Parker’s influence on the record. While this is overall a sonic success, it can sometimes feel like there’s a shadow left over the album. You can’t shake the ever-lurking reminder that while this is a killer album, had it not been for Parker’s input, the band may not have the attention that they have garnered – a real shame considering the talent oozing from the record.

Parker’s influence aside, the real stand out of the album is MC Cruz Patterson and his lyrical mastery. Although the band’s heated sound comes from a total of seven members, Patterson’s solid bars are the real fire on the record. Subject matter ranges from more sentimental, nostalgic lyrics of school days on ‘Slow One’ and future endeavours on ‘Adventures For The Capsule’, to more outspoken and philosophical tracks like ‘1-5-9’ (covering topics like the difference in power of the two sides of the brain). Patterson spits solid, unfaltering and unbroken gold throughout, and manages to perfectly commandeer and take control of the direction of the tracks without overpowering the underlying music. In fact (dare I say it), the band have, on their debut record, managed to find a perfect mix of musical landscapes and lyricism, working in combination to take the audience on a journey through the wonderful world they create.

In a scene lacking the funky, bouncy presence of such a group, Koi Child shine through like the shimmering sax solos they churn out track after track. With such a mature sound at such a young age, there’s nothing fishy about this album.

Rating: ★★★★

Koi Child is available now from iTunes and on Spotify.

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