Cybernetics. It is rhythm without beats. It is loops without repetition. It is melodic without melody. Instruments without instrumentation. It is all of these things, and perhaps none of these things. Confused? Here is what Cybernetics is: some of the most beautiful, interesting 14 minutes and 18 seconds you have the fortune to experience all year.
Let's start simply: Sample-based electronics (with samples of natural instruments, synthetic swells, field recordings, classical records, etc.). But of course it's not quite that simple. These samples swirl around each other in something like a cosmic cauldron, maniacally manned by chef Kanaga who throws dashes of this and that at different levels of volume and pitch, and stirs them around somewhat haphazardly. No matter what he decides to toss in, the ingredients used are all of the choicest variety: strings, harps, synths, horns, haunting vocals, blipping beats, fatty bass... when you take a little of a lot of different good things and put them together, the results are bound to be good. Here, the final mix is succulent, sweet, sour, crunchy, dark, playful... A musical-culinary catastrophe gone horribly/fantastically right.
The improvisatory feel of Cybernetics finds Kanaga bridging an interesting gap between pop music and free jazz. Whatever low-end beats you might be able to make out for the 2-3 seconds they remain in tact will have you thinking Flying Lotus. But the sheer randomness of it all matched with the streaming beauty of chiming/chirping jazzy 7th or 9th chords points to something more like Oval or Jim O'Rourke. There are very few hooks to grab onto as repeated patterns are layered atop polyrhythmically-fluctuating and completely unstable foundations, which keeps everything in a constant chaos that still feels tempered. This sort of thing usually means you'll forget just about everything that happened the minute the record runs its course. The heck of it is, you simply will remember Cybernetics. You'll grow to know its ghostly, melting vocals and skittering drums. The jittery percussion and 808 claps. The flowing beauty of harp and Fender Rhodes. It's because all of these things happen a lot throughout the record; themes come, go, and return again to delight and re-inspire—ideas imagined, forgotten, then re-imagined anew in different, more exciting contexts than before. As a whole, Cybernetics sounds like a stream of consciousness as ideas flow freely into one another and recycle back in on themselves, all fluttering wildly as colorful butterflies.
Though it may come to be thought of as a series of experiments rather than an "album" in the classic sense of the word, Cybernetics does mark a mega moment in the synthesis of jazz and electronic music. If there's been examples of this sort of fusion before, they don't seem to matter in Kanaga's wake, as his approach feels totally unique. "Rhythm as sequence of events rather than evenly divided time," says a brief description on the Bandcamp page where this is available (did I mention it's free?). It's that kind of thinking that has me the most intrigued by Kanaga's work. He's looking for workarounds for the imagined hegemony of foundational musical concepts, challenging the very structural fabric of the "song" as we know it.