Kuro: Black Magic

Kuro feature the amplified talents of French violinist Agathe Max and bassist Gareth Turner, joined by Valentina Magaletti of Tomaga (drums) and Helen Papaioannou (baritone sax) for this Superspecial Supersonic performance.

Kuro take their name from the Japanese word for ‘black’, and their debut release for Rocket Recordings marks an experimental union between two diversely storied yet inherently like-minded musicians. Agathe Max, who hails from Lyon, is a classically-trained violinist with a varied back catalogue of studio and live work – running the gamut from spectral ambience to stately soundscapes and adept at summoning dream states and drama alike.

The Bristol-based Gareth Turner, meanwhile, maintains a busy schedule performing and recording with Rocket Recordings trio Anthroprophh (alongside The Heads guitarist Paul Allen) bass/drums duo Big Naturals, and his solo double-bass project Salope, as well as working as a touring tech for Melvins on their trips to Europe.

Yet despite both of these artists’ multi-faceted artistic lives, their partnership was both a natural progression and reflective of an intuitive chemistry. The result of their initial spark is perhaps both artists’ most coherent and captivating work to date.

The result is Kuro’s eponymous first outing, an elegantly sprawling and richly textured work of tumult and transcendence recorded by Joe Garcia (live sound wizard for OM and many others) in the duo’s home city. “An amazing sound engineer” enthuses Agathe of Garcia “He’s got a very good sense of space with sound. We used different sources of mics, with a room recording that would link all the others and give a warm and open touch.” 

A unique, richly atmospheric and largely improvisatory record that stands proud and defiant of pigeonholing, Kuro is neither elegant chamber music nor intense drone-noise, neither psychedelia nor spiritual jazz, yet with elements of all of the above- dwelling perhaps atop a psychic hinterland between the shamanic vortices of Ashtray Navigations, the wild extrapolations of Sun City Girls and the melancholic richness of The Dirty Three. Yet what comes across strongest of all is the original spark of the partnership, summoning altered states, meditative vibrations and internal narratives by the power of eight strings. 

“We wanted to create a journey for the listeners, to create an inner cinema with emotional landscapes, old time cults and stories of lost sailors” reckons Agathe. Indeed, though voyage appears to be only beginning, such is its momentum that any adventurous and self-respecting psychonaut would be well advised to hitch a ride. 

“At times her work approaches the supersonic escape velocity of Tony Conrad; elsewhere, she introduces delicate repeating threads, then  slowly weaves them into a fabric of vast, billowing sound more reminiscent of Steve Reich. With an elegant command of melody and a strident use of rhythm, Max manages to create a remarkably accessible collection of tracks, one that bridges the gaps between minimalism, post-classicism, the avant garde, krautrock, and plain old-fashioned pop.” – Bookcat review.

Don’t miss this Superspecial performance from KURO at Supersonic this year!