Review: Kuro i Kawa — ‘Kuro i Kawa’

Greg Paul, who has written and performed varying music under numerous moons, has returned to softer experimentation on his first full-length release under the banner of Kuro i Kawa.

Kuro i Kawa, Japanese for ‘Black River’, begins with the formless “Desert Choir” and slowly unveils Paul’s new vision of guitar-centered drones capable of touching the banks of contemplation. Throughout the album he shifts moods with rhythmic strumming, looped textural backgrounds, and dark space.

“Blissbunny” uses percussive guitar taps, gradual layering, whirling static, and brightness as Paul uses melodic undertones to loop and stretch from. “Missing Fingers” is less optimistic, but densely magnetic. Paul creates a low-level windscape holding hands with his highly metallic fingering. The echoes seem to materialize outside of the speakers and continue to spill as “Dark River” serenely bends the warm hum of forgotten years.

The second half of Kuro i Kawa travels amongst the shadows. “Atmospheric River,” an apt descriptor for the song’s unearthed sound, is comprised of heft, textural lines and vibrating flickers of hypnotic waves void of color or direction. The nine-minute “Fog” uses a tangible density to penetrate the smallest of space. Notes have a way of echoing louder and hold stronger shapes. The song’s length allows a sinister undercurrent to lurk. It breathes and flares its nostrils, as your breath gets closer.

Of all the great titled entries, “In Praise of Shadows” harkens beneath the project’s name and evokes the gorgeous sentiment captured on the cover. Paul’s bending notes, cascading melodicism, and deft use of space offer a pulse worth chasing. The final track, “Flufingers,” revisits the gorgeous, shimmery textural layering found throughout Kuro i Kawa. Its warmth is reflected in the high sheen and revolving streaks of grey.

As meditative song structures continue to enter the general consciousness with less negative whiffs of new ageism and crystals, Paul enters the discussion at a pivotal time. His new ambient wanderings may not grant him keys reserved for the upper echelon of explorative ambient instrumentalists like Tim Hecker or Mark McGuire, but in time, he could find a seat. For now, Kuro i Kawa offers 50 stirring minutes to drift away with.

(Check out ‘Kuro i Kawa below via Bandcamp)