Album Review: Kid Koala featuring Emiliana Torrini – Music to Draw to: Satellite

By Sam Tornow, Editorial Director
[Arts & Crafts; 2017]
Rating: 6.5/10

Key Tracks: “The Observable Universe,” “Novachord,” “The Hubble Constant”

A kindergarten teacher who passed out demo tapes to his students turned experimental hip-hop DJ who has collaborated with Gorillaz and helped form the supergroup Deltron 3030, while simultaneously creating graphic novels. Kid Koala’s journey seems as stitched together as the artist’s sample-heavy style of turntablism. So what’s next for an eccentric, koala-suit wearing artist? An ambient album, apparently.

Music to Draw to: Satellite is inspired by a series of concerts in which Kid Koala asked the audience to draw pictures while he performed more melodic songs, a salient scene compared to the often brash, colorful work he’s known for. What Koala and vocal collaborator Emiliana Torrini have handed us is a dainty collection of atmospheric beeps and boops that could be the soundtrack to Interstellar Jr.

For the majority of this album, it seems Koala has hit his mark: a gliding, slow moving, cutesy album where the listener can get lost in between the static. New ground is not struck in the ambient world, though even the most highfalutin fans of the genre cannot truthfully deny the flowery hypnotism of tracks like “The Observable Universe,” “Novachord” and “The Hubble Constant”.

Where the trouble arises are the tracks “Adrift” and “Fallaway”, which both feature Torrini’s vocals. Like road bumps, the songs stop the smooth ride of the album, strangely opting for an out-of-place indie-pop sound amongst a sea of lone synths. By themselves, these tracks aren’t terrible, but they’re not terrific either, just two average stones splitting up the momentum of the river. Torillini’s additions to the album aren’t all in fault, though. The B-sides “Beneath the Heart” and “Collapser” makes solid use of her fractured vocals and locks into the album’s intention.

Music to Draw to: Satellite is a strange venture for Koala. It’s a step into a new arena for the artist and he has entered with grace and admittedly a few shortcomings. The future intentions of the graphic novelist, musician, and all around unrestful experimentalist may always be in question, but if Kid Koala decides to continue on the Music to Draw to series, he has a promising start.

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