The Bug and Joseph Kamaru find common ground and companionship in a stifling world on their album-length collaboration, writes Skye Butchard

Kevin Martin’s 2017 collaboration with doom metal band Earth had fun pointing out their differences. You can see that in its name, “The Bug vs Earth”, a match-night title card that nods to their odd-couple pairing. His new album with ambient music heavyweight Joseph Kamaru takes a different approach: KRM and KMRU. There’s an emphasis on closeness. Like this name, Disconnect earnestly finds common ground between the two artists, in service of its exploration of outsider status, otherness and isolation.

On paper, there’s already crossover. Both KMRU and The Bug make music that often sounds like it has been transmitted in secret. For The Bug, it’s away from the eyes of an oppressive regime. For KMRU, it’s more of an intimate secret between him and the listener. They’re masters of sonic space, and this collaboration blurs their styles in its use of unsettling atmosphere and oppressive noise. It shifts between subtle variations on focused musical themes, built on dub bass and haunting minor melodies that move through fog.

In Kamaru’s words, “the project served as a response to Audre Lorde’s idea that differences should be embraced as a dynamic force within humanity, rather than a perceived threat.” The six impressive soundscapes are often desolate and overwhelming, with brief flashes of hope. What grounds Disconnect is Joseph Kamaru’s spoken vocal, delivered like warnings through static. This was Kevin Martin’s idea, as he found Kamaru’s voice naturally captivating. The sharp sibilance and drawn-out vowel sounds feel as important as his cryptic poetry. His words repeat, decay and reform across the record, centring his perspective.

‘Differences’, ‘Difference’ and ‘Differ’, and ‘Arkives’, ‘Ark’, ‘Arcs’ are the two recursive sides to Disconnect. Patterns return and then collapse. That could lead to a feeling of slightness by the sixth track, when you feel you’ve heard all it has to offer. But by swallowing us up in its achromatic palette so consistently, you too begin to feel isolated. Succumbing to the slow-moving drones, you notice the nuances – how the mood shifts depending on careful adjustments in feedback. The wide-open space of ‘Arcs’ feels like peace, while the climax of ‘Arcs’ is stifling.

What’s most impressive in Disconnect is how it merges its two creators. They’ve made a piece that combines their worlds so seamlessly. In doing so, they communicate how it feels to be alone – but also what can be made together.

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