Just four tracks and 17 minutes long, Kwes’s second EP has enough ideas for a whole album. Every moment is so packed with unpredictable detail that trying to define his sound is like trying to wrangle a cloud. So far the 24-year-old former philosophy student is best known as a producer — working with the xx and British MCs DELS and Speech Debelle, joining Damon Albarn’s crew on last summer’s visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo — but here he mutates into the most unusual singer-songwriter since James Blake.
Without the soft, unpretentious warmth of Kwes’s voice (summed up nicely by the title of “bashful”), it might be hard to keep track of his shape-shifting blends of the organic and electronic, like the distorted basslines, inquisitive rhythms, found-sound shrapnel and dizzying waves of synth that come and go during the seven-minute “Igoyh.” The endearing melodies form the threads that keep these pearls from clattering to the floor, and his heart is as open as his arrangements are abstract.
While the rapturous “Igoyh” offers simple reassurance (“I’m not going anywhere”) “honey” is a sweet slice of psychedelic whimsy in which a cabbage on a kitchen counter casts lovelorn glances at a jar of honey in the cupboard above. That one’s inspired by the Beach Boys’ “Vegetables,” which was written by Brian Wilson during his sandbox psychosis years. By contrast, however strange Meantime gets, Kwes sounds like he knows exactly what he’s doing. And this addictively intriguing EP offers a score of clues as to what he might do next.