Completed in January 2014, the long-awaited Liverbleach EP–the second official release by electronic experimentalist Kirkis–was finally unveiled April 27 via Sam Shepherd’s (aka Floating Points) Eglo Records. The four-track EP is a challenging, expectation-defying release that debuts unreleased material previously teased select live recordings. Until Liverbleach, the Melbourne, Australia native Matthew Kirkis showcased his musical virtuosity as a bassist, producer, and vocalist whose aesthetic was defined by rhythmically propulsive, jazz-structured R&B that strove for equal parts techno and soul. Tracks like the two-month-old “HYPNO,” which very well may have been created in the wake of Liverbleach, subscribe to a zany, George Dukian kind of astro-funk. It’s a striking integrity that’s further explored on the one-off Stamp The Wax contribution “Magic Rhinestone” and expansive live performances like “Live Medley From Zooladoola Mountain” (often accompanied by members of fellow Aussie aesthetes Hiatus Kaiyote). The latter offering, whose eye-popping visual has recently been removed from YouTube, is an eight-minute epic of syrupy, kaleidoscopic jazz jams woven together with an awe-inspiring degree of technical sophistication.
But, positioned against Liverbleach, “Zooladoola Mountain” is simple and sonically accommodating, like elevator music. There’s a stark disconnect between the live material Kirkis performs as a four-piece live band–often including supplementary vocalists Silent Jay, Laura Christoforidis, and vocoder/keys guru Simon Mavin (of Hiatus Kaiyote). It’s musically sensible in a manner that’s never attempted in studio recordings, rhythmically and thematically as serene as Thundercat‘s most dynamic tracks (see “Live In Stylin’ 2014″‘s “Mohican” and “Zxerolapoint”). Curiously enough, the sound refined for the new EP was first hinted at through Matthew Kirkis’ SoundCloud uploads as Anti-Kirkis, presented as his violently schizoid alter-ego. Through Anti-Kirkis, the producer delved headfirst into physically invigorated electronics, utilizing the intensified energies to perform opening sets for long-standing experimental dance artists like Warp Records’ Clark.
Deviating from these colossal, body-moving cuts, Liverbleach inverts the immediate dance sensibility of such club-ready sets. The EP’s four songs stray even further from Kirkis’ live recordings–devoid of substantial vocals, conventional lyric forms, or his previously established penchant for salient future-soul. As early as the one-minute mark of opening track “Liverbleach,” it’s painstakingly obvious that Kirkis is crafting a new, compositionally frenetic sense of artistry that borrows generously from the eccentric maximalism of Flying Lotus‘ You’re Dead! and, even more so, the harrowing and inescapable anxiety of J. Dilla‘s Donuts. Even his 2013 Eglo single “Worm Jelly/ Oh Serene Zoltar” sounds bright and cheerful compared to the fraught kinetics of the newest release.
At just ten minutes, Liverbleach is insanely dense, a sonic slap upside the head, an intoxicating whirlwind of turbulent hyperactivity. Where his bass chops and dynamic synthwork were emphasized in the past, Kirkis, for the first time, seems to exercise his excellence as a drummer. On tracks like “Vovo” and “Helium,” it’s the most considerable element in the mix, while the melody, albeit eccentric and dazzling as ever, takes on a subsidiary role. The first half of last and longest track, “Kirkis Runs Voodoo Town,” is the only instance when the EP slows for a breath of air, a lax, locomotive interlude that inevitably relinquishes its calm for a fantastic, feisty finish.
The debut full-length by Kirkis is reported to be released later this year. Stream the Liverbleach EP below.