Track By Track Guide: KAU – The Cycle Repeats

Our ‘Track By Track’ guide sheds light on the stories behind some of our favourite artists’ music.

Brussel’s based instrumental trio KAU break down their debut album song by song. They talk about the songs’ inspiration, creative approach, the meaning behind the album titles, and more. They also discuss the album’s themes and how they relate to their lives. 

Drawing inspiration from the timeless genres of jazz and dance music, their objective is both simple and clear: to captivate you with contagious beats that will have your head nodding in rhythm effortlessly. Since their early days, they have relied on improvisation, endless jam sessions, and open-mindedness towards different genres and styles to achieve this. As a result, their music has an organic and vibrant quality. Moreover, the three boys’ long-lasting friendship lies at the heart of everything, always relying on what unites them: their love of music. Each time the KAU cycle repeats, something new is born.

It’s richly diverse, with a spontaneous groove that creates an irresistible allure. From the pulsating bassline and jazzy synths of ‘Kampala’ to the irresistible hip-hop grooves and Herbie Hancock-style chords of ‘Little Steps’. Each track unveils a kaleidoscope of sound, ensuring a diverse listening experience from start to finish.

KAU consists of André Breidlid on drums, Matteo Genovese on bass, and Jan Janzen on synths.

The Cycle Repeats is out via the consistently excellent Sdban Ultra (grab a copy here). Stream the album below, followed by the trio’s exclusive track-by-track guide.

General meaning of the name : ‘’The Cycle Repeats’’

We are KAU, three long-lasting friends who first met in high school back in 2008. We’ve been playing together in various high school/university projects and haven’t stopped exploring music ever since. Releasing a debut album after 15 years, with a renowned Belgian music label such as Sdban Ultra, symbolizes the repetition of a new cycle where music is brought to life once again.

The name is also attributed to our compositional approach. Often in the music, there are elements like melodies or chord progressions which are repeated throughout the song allowing the listener to ‘feel’ the presence of a ‘cycle’. At each repetition, we mold the energy of the composition by changing the sounds characterizing the cycle while keeping the same notes in the melody and in the harmony.

Hence, ‘The Cycle Repeats’.

In general, the names in the album are attributed to ‘places’ each composition evokes in us. The name Kampala was chosen as a symbol of a very busy and trafficked city. The sounds characterizing the track, like the Moog synth bass line, lead melody and drum beat remind us of accelerating cars in traffic.

Being a very rhythmic piece, the track is definitely dedicated to all the drummers that inspire us. One of them is called Makaya McCraven and he often wears amulets on stage. This track is an example of how we navigate through different styles of music, for e.g. the transition from a DnB beat to a Reggaeton feel.

We think of Mirage as the continuation of Amulet that’s why we actually recorded them together and separated them subsequently. The sounds in the beginning of the track remind us of a mirage in the desert. The track culminates with a heavy hip-hop beat reminding us of the 90s.

We often fantasized about being in places where nature is untamed by mankind, where one can be away from pressures coming from society. Such places evoke their own ‘kind of music’ and a great variety of feelings. Kautokeino is a small village in the north of Norway where there is little human activity and extreme wilderness. In the track you can hear us talking : ‘’.. You’re never that far away from people in Belgium… we should go to Kautokeino… ‘’. The harmony and melody have a more ‘classical’ approach leaving nostalgic feelings in us musicians and possibly to the listener.

Zero G
Zero G (or Zero Gravity) is firstly a synonym for outer space, another desolate landscape which evokes feelings of human impotency when confronted to an indomitable force of nature. Before becoming full time musicians, each one of us obtained a university degree in subjects like Biochemistry, Economics or Human Physiology. This melancholic track symbolises memories of that past. Back in those days we were missing music, our own ‘gravity’. We were unaware of our future as musicians and clearly not in control of our lives, just as mankind will never be capable of taming outer space.

Little Steps
The name ‘Little Steps’ is not to be associated to nature but rather to the musical features of the tracks. This one sounds a bit more ‘jazzy’ and what remind us of ‘little steps’ is either the up-tempo swing/walking bass line or the repetitive piano riff. The name is also in contraposition to ‘Giant Steps’ by John Coltrane. We tend to draw inspiration to many kinds of music, but jazz has played a big role in our lives as we’ve spent many years studying music in conservatory.

Hyde is all about hype. The song begins with a sample of people talking in the club in Brussels, which we recorded ourselves with the phone. The name Hyde refers to the character ‘’Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’’. When people go party they can become real monsters on the dance floor letting out the “Hyde” in them. With this track we want to make people dance.

Alaska is another ode to nature. The studio in which we recorded was surrounded by a forest in the Belgian Ardennes. The samples of rain and trees from that forest characterize the beginning of the song. The name Alaska symbolises this typology of nature and came to us directly when we composed it. The harmony and melody of this track also remind us of Folk/Americana or a track by Bon Iver. We close the album with an out of the box fuzzy power chord progression. Fun fact: we added an electric guitar and it’s Andre our drummer who plays that progression on an old untuned Ibanez.

CF Smith

Permeating your ears with good music.

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