In Japanese folklore, the kitsune is believed to have the power to change its appearance; the mythical fox may shapeshift as it pleases, depending on circumstance and need. It is an ability that Paris-based Kitsuné Maison - known for both their music and fashion output - are certainly trying to channel. After wild success in Japan, expansion in South-East Asia and stable progression in Europe, the uber cool French electro label decided to sashay across the Atlantic to discover the USA’s sonic nouvelle vague.
This third Kitsuné America compilation continues a rich history of Franco-American collaboration: the Statue of Liberty, french fries, colonialism, the Vietnam War, and Pitchfork’s excellent music festival in Paris. Indeed, the album’s repertoire blends a certain French chic and elegance with North American grit and grandiosity, conjuring up the neon signs, hamburger joints, and highways en route. That said, while Kitsuné America 3 certainly is an interesting pastiche of contemporary US music, it’s not quite the crème de la crème; more of a conspicuous bric-à-brac.
The opener ‘Karma’, by NYC girl duo Beau, is charmingly melancholic, with vocalist Heather Golden soulfully declaring: “Feeling like a horse with no lungs/Can’t even breathe, so how can you run?” over waxing and waning distortion. Brooklyn-based My Body continue the disquieted tone with ‘If I Need You I’ll Call’, until the track erupts into a swirling synth storm, and settles cathartically back down again. Meanwhile, the 23-year-old Sunno Colón’s ‘1000 Roses’ could easily slot in alongside the introspective moments of Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange. Washington DC vocalist Kelela’s ‘Cut 4 Me’ doesn’t quite fit with the motif, and her stunted, repetitive beat makes for a difficult listen.
The midpoint sees Kitsuné America 3 reach its peak. Son Lux’s ‘Lost It To Trying (Radio Edit)’ is urgent and cinematic, and fuses Ryan Lott’s classical and modern influences brilliantly, guided by a compelling woodwind addition. However, with well over 100,000 views on YouTube, perhaps it is not so much of a find. Misun’s ‘Eli Eli’ is a real joy, with its clean, precise guitar riffs, hip-swaying grooves, chiming piano, and best of all, gorgeously arresting harmonies. The only mainstay of all the Kitsuné America albums, Heartsrevolution, bring a typical, yet mediocre track in electro pop tune ‘Kishi Kaisei’. Max Jury’s languidly-paced ‘Christian Eyes’ introduces a country twang with her heartfelt vocals and a gratifying guitar solo. Nineteen-year-old Issue’s ‘Ten Monks’ is a catchy albeit bizarre song, in which he raps about brewing tea; not exactly enfant terrible material. “I’ve got that hot water mix it up/Tea bag brew it up” Issue intones, apparently in full earnest. Though, Seattle-based Navvi’s ‘Speak’ is an apt denouement: who knew that Kristin Henry’s breathy chillwave perfectly fitted the gentle pace of a flâneur?
Kitsuné America 3 is not simply an attractive façade: there is style, but there’s also substance. While the previous two served as an amuse-bouche - particularly Toro y Moi’s electronic hit ‘Say That’ from the second album - this is the best yet. It is sunnier, slower, and cooler than its predecessors, and would be a satisfying soundtrack to any interstate road trip. However, Kitsuné America 3 lacks consistency, as is so often the bête-noir of compilations, despite the album’s considerable highlights.
7Peter Yeung's Score