Maribou State - Kingdoms In Colour
Touring can sometimes be the gruelling bane of a musician’s existence.
For Chris Davids and Liam Ivory, the duo who form Maribou State, it’s been the essential catalyst for Kingdoms In Colour, which is a kaleidoscopic sonic collage of their two-and-a-half years adventures travelling the globe.
The duo’s mission statement to absorb sounds and styles from around the world into their own music became a reality thanks to the success of their 2014 debut album Portraits, sending them to far flung locales such as (brace for travel envy) India, Lisbon, Morocco, Beijing, Tokyo, Berlin, The Costwolds, Coney Island, the Philippines, and Sydney.
Rather than pick up trinkets or tropical illnesses, Maribou State captured the diverse sights, sounds, and sometimes instruments of their journey in field recordings. Taking the results back to their London studio, they’ve masterfully woven them with original production, instrumentation, collaborative sessions, and obscure samples of Texan school bands and Belgian jazz singers.
By all rights, Kingdoms In Colour should be a mess but instead, it’s far from it. A lot of thought has gone into how each element is organised together, resulting in a vibrant fabric that gives the album a distinctive flavour that spans decades and geographical distances.
The Guzheng, a traditional Chinese zither, bubbles beneath ‘Nervous Tics’, flitting between deftly plucked guitars and gorgeous lines from the duo’s go-to vocalist Holly Walker, who gives another moving performance on the silky syncopations of ‘Slow Heat’.
The pleasantly sweltering ‘Glasshouses’ spins together bird noises, pitch-shifted vocals, melodic percussion and luxurious melodies; ‘Feel Good’ is a match-made-in-heaven collaboration with Khruangbin, pairing the Texan Thai-fusion trio’s snaking guitar phrases with an exquisitely detailed soundscape of dusty breakbeats and wordless yet evocative singing.
‘Turnmills’ brings it all back home. Named after an iconic London Club that was shuttered in 2008, it revolves an arpeggiated synth-bass and a rhythmically dense beat that swells to an expansive vista of heavenly strings and choral vocals.
The thought of a multicultural soundtrack cobbled together by two backpacking Brits would, understandably, raise some eyebrows. But it would be unfair to dismiss Kingdoms In Colours as merely a series of touristy snapshots.
The foreign sounds and samples aren’t simply exotic ornaments to decorate Maribou State’s sonics. There’s merit in the duo’s attempts to preserve the character and feeling of the cultures they’ve cherrypicked from, rather than objectify them.
It’s much more appreciation than appropriation.
Kingdoms In Colour has elevated Maribou State from rudimentary makers of chilled house and RnB-infused electronica into something special: craftsmen of globetrotting panoramas who can gift their deceptively complex arrangements with an organic warmth and human touch akin to luminaries like Bonobo and Four Tet.
Hopefully the album has Davids and Ivory busting out their well-worn passports out for further round-the-world touring, we could all benefit from another transportative travelogue to equal Kingdoms In Colour.