Keeno’s Newest EP Confirms His Future Greatness
Posted by Ben on 13th April 2017
Keeno AKA Will Keen is one of drum n bass’ hottest talents, and whilst that phrase gets bandied around a lot these days, it’s unavoidably applicable here. Because not only does the 23 year old release incredible sounding music, he turns out productions that are uniquely his own; a tightly developed, organic fusion of electronic and orchestral influences. Demonstratively, he’s the only artist to appear in every single Ninja Ninja Best Tracks of the Year countdown.
Two albums, three EPs and a run of singles under his belt already, Keeno is unusually prolific for someone of his age and ability, perhaps indicative of the passion and love to be found in his output. So, EP number four, his third on Med School Music and in my opinion the strongest yet. To those who are already fans, Music For Orchestra: Drums and Bass is the latest iteration of precisely why that’s the case. If you’re not, then be prepared for an eye-opening, awakening experience in what drum n bass can be.
I have to start with Enigma. Keeno does strings like few others, and the opening section here seriously smacks of Game of Thrones-esque epicness, laying down a canvas for the whole track in an eerie fashion. A violin, cello, viola and double bass are all in there, an unparalleled level of instrumentation that on first appearances seems simple, but gets you constantly coming back for more. The best part of Enigma’s string stacatto is the warmth it gives the highs, contrasting with and making an already flawless bottom end sound exquisite. The bassline is bursting at the seams here, in particular the gurgling sub bass that you can tell wants to slap you round the face and nick your wallet. Probably in my top five for the whole year, Enigma is a masterclass in tonal contrasts, pitch manipulation and percussive construction.
If you had to categorise Keeno he’d probably fall under ‘Liquid’ and whilst avoiding generalisations is usually a good idea, Shelter From The Storm is the most stereotypically fitting of that label. Rou Reynolds is on the mic here, his vocal overlays coming as singing of course but also spoken word, reminiscent of Together We’re Lost by Fred V & Grafix. Amid rife instrumentation, calming vibes pour all over an immaculate piano arrangement that gladly shares the high end with characteristically crisp percussion. Blissfully emotive, the combination of vocals and bassline is divine. Some liquid tracks rely on vocals for punchy-ness but not here, like in Perspective Keeno has balanced low frequencies with soaring voice to perfection, and both are as essential as the other. Dreamy stuff.
My main struggle with this EP is deciding on my favourite and it’s a toss up between Enigma and the next one: Fading Fast. Raw, relentless energy is the subject line here, a pile-driver of force that dumps you straight on your arse. From the get-go too as fast-moving strings climb up and down scales like they’re nothing, a riff aimed at mentally preparing you for Fading Fast’s all-encompassing, mule kick of a back end. After the introduction’s impressive musicality the switch up is beyond dirty, a drop that’s undoubtedly destined for long-term dance-floor greatness. What’s more, Keeno has decided to stretch this greatness out over three different drops, not only giving us a screw-face but variety and dynamism too. The third is the best, a diving crescendo of low frequencies releasing four minutes of pent up tension, percussive apprehension and orchestral perfection. Absolutely unreal.
Last up, Insomnia Of An Anxious Mind. I can’t help but feel like this is the most personal of the four, a real reflection of Keeno not just as a musician, but a person too. The introduction is long, subdued and blends elements into a shimmering pool of sound, the ripples upon which gradually grow into a vibrant clatter of thin yet satisfying drums. Perhaps the most similar to his previous work, Insomnia Of An Anxious Mind will appeal to those heads that love a good stroke behind the ears. This makes the title quite interesting as you’d expect something anxious or jittery yet this tune is anything but, so what Keeno might be doing is juxtaposing moods to complement contrasted tones. Light and dark, happy and sad. Regardless, Insomnia Of An Anxious Mind is a sultry finish.
In my mind, Keeno is on course to be one of the greats. He’s released so much already and at the age of 23, you can only imagine what he’ll be churning out in ten or even twenty years. Very much at the forefront of drum n bass’ new wave alongside producers such as Whiney, Ownglow or Signal, Keeno almost represents what’s so good about drum n bass at the moment: intense creativity and a drive to make even more impactive music. Music For Orchestra: Drums and Bass belies that more than any other recent release, containing a breadth of skill and perception which makes it an honest to god joy to listen to. Enigma and Fading Fast will certainly be contenders for track of the year in December, and it seems highly likely that Keeno will once again be gracing several of our end of year countdowns. Go pick up this incredible EP from iTunes right fucking now.