ALBUM REVIEW : FKJ - French Kiwi Juice (2017)

French, multi-instrumentalist FKJ (Vincent Fenton) has been bubbling in the electronic music circuit of soundcloud for some time now. With just two (100% self produced) eps, released in the span of 3 years, he was able to tour the world and share the amazing talent he has to offer. And that talent is most definitely not wavering on his latest project French Kiwi Juice.

French Kiwi Juice opens with a blend of whimsical saxophone, vocals, and airy synths, complimented by subtle guitar strums lying low in the mix. The lyrics of the opener “We Ain't Feeling Time”, reflect the realities of FKJ, such as always learning and maturing both as an artist and a human being. This brilliantly chill opener, sets the base sonic aesthetic for what to expect on the rest of the album yet, also stands on its own as a smooth lowkey vibe out track. Next, one of the standout singles on the album, “Skyline”, encompasses bubbling synths, sparse percs and FKJ’s soft angelic voice in the pre-chorus stating, “I feel it inside, I wanna reach that, it's somewhere inside, we should reach that…” then the hook drops ever so beautifully. Each time the tracks builds up then releases, you’re left with feelings of bliss and a rush of joyful energy. The track concludes with a outro provided by a female singer, reiterating the message of the track, but within a more minimalist approach instrumentally of just keys and vocals. The album keeps delivering on its next track “Better Give U Up”. This is a honest heartfelt song about moving on from a past romance,“better get you off my soul now...but i'll never ever stop thinking of you.” This mature take on romance displays some of FKJ’s better songwriting, he understands the necessary ups and downs of life. All of this content is wrapped up perfectly in a blanket of twangy guitars, complimented by soft Rhodes chords hanging in the background, giving off a dreamy, almost cloudy feel, the percussion is minimal but hits hard when needed. And of course the ending is expertly crafted, a transition into an intimate studio hum of the hook to finish off the track. After this track we have “Go Back Home”, while not as emotionally impactful as the previous tracks, it sets apart the album's pacing pretty well, a sample and instrumental heavy track, vocals only appear on hook, incorporating elements of deep house and hip-hop. While a good break, it is burdened with being the most generic and predictable out of all the tracks on the album. Thankfully the pace begins to mellow out once again in the form of the following track, “Vibin’ Out [feat. (((O)))]”. This track features laid back synths and is the only (from what I can tell) song to include strings into the mix. FKJ stays where he's most comfortable, in the producer's chair, while guest vocalist (((O))) provides some much needed variety vocally. Interestingly enough, this track is the most outside the box, formula wise, out of the track list. The following tracks “Canggu” and “Blessed”, allow the mellow vibes to properly set back in. “Canggu” becomes FKJ’s platform to showcase his superb abilities on the sax, alongside some precise vocal chops, and a jazzy riding bass, and floaty keys section. “Blessed” spotlights his guitar playing, and vocals, with minimal synth work in the background. Lyrically, FKJ introspectively speaks on his position in life and reflects on how he is grateful for this position, yet at the same time he's searching for more. The track closes out with a groove brought about via guitar solo which is, undeniably clean, alongside FKJs beautiful vocal harmonies.

“Die With A Smile” sees FKJ tap into his inner George Benson, with the help of some bouncy synths to add some lushness to the already stellar guitar performance. Next we are treated to the “Lying Together (interlude)”. Beautiful glistening keys glide alongside pitched up soul samples, with a slight vinyl crackle in the background for good measure. FKJ continues to perfectly texture every song on the album, a motif of dreamy, sensual, jazz like pieces. The interlude transitions us to the exquisite “Lying Together”, relying solely on sampled vocals and sliding synths, which lead the track, complimented by some stray strums of guitar for added fluidity. The rise and fall of the track’s structure leaves the listener perfectly satisfied with its conclusion. As we near the end of the album the track, “Joy” helps us prepare for what's to come in the finale. This upbeat, house-like track, is mainly sample driven. There is a break down into a half tempo beat as a sax swings in the fold, then the tempo picks up again, the drum programming seems to emulate drums heard on funk records. As we come to a close, “Why Are There Boundaries” gracefully remind us why we kept listening, now 12 tracks in, this silky smooth outro that takes upon a similar feel to “Skyline” from earlier, FKJ lets the keys drip with the essence of jazz, while the drums and guitar swing in unison, cradling the listener to the finish of the album. FKJ choses to close the album lyrically on a personal struggle, questioning why things are the way they are. I for one, don't have that answer, but damn did I really enjoy this album.

While there are some shortcomings in terms of album pacing, most of the songs on here are crafted so magnificently, probably due to Mr. Fenton’s previous work are a score engineer. Seeing this interesting crossbreeding of jazz/soul/hip-hop/electronica, I’m looking forward to what FKJ has to offer in the future, and highly recommend this album to anyone who is a fan of the previously stated genres.

Fav Track(s): “Skyline”, “Why Are There Boundaries”

Least Fav Track(s): “Go Back Home”

Rating: 8/10

                               - Sam Morgan