The visual artist's first LP is an incomplete but delightfully strange waltz through classical and experimental forms.
Kanda's 2017 debut EP, Heart, and its 2018 follow-up, Luna, were released under his musical alias, Doon Kanda. The most memorable tracks from these albums, including "Luna" and "Axolotl," would feel just as familiar slipped into the soundtrack of Final Fantasy as they would in a club set. The video for "Axolotl" is a slow pan of an albino anaconda giving birth, bathed in post-natal fluids. The visual for "Luna" is a computer-rendered still of two bodies with human heads, torsos, chicken legs and claws. When asked about whether his creative process changes between his visual practice and his music project, Kanda responded, "It doesn't! Only different tools."
The opening track on Labyrinth, Kanda's first album, refers to "the condition of having more than one head," a fitting reference for an artist dealing with myth and mutants. The song is a grand waltz in minor chords, an icy piano melody amped up to fortissimo. Within its melodic layers lie most of the elements that are broken down and explored in later tracks. The 3/4 time signature, characteristic of waltz, structures much of the album.
"Dio" and "Gut" continue the spookier, more electronic elements heard on "Polycephaly." Using so many similar elements at the front of the album is a narrative device, like a repeating theme in a film score. (Around the middle of the album, a friend walked in and asked if I was listening to a remix of the Game Of Thrones' theme.) But it's almost too predictable, especially when presented alongside the chaotic beings we're introduced to in Kanda's visual art (the album comes with a ten-page art booklet).
It's the bookending tracks—"Polycephaly" and "Entrance"—that feel the most complete. They are both built as orchestral pieces and sound like different movements of a symphony. The album as a whole is accomplished, but it still hasn't entirely caught up with the precision of his visual multiverse. Still, I am glad that Labyrinth offers another glimpse of Kanda's alternate realities.