The Kandinsky Effect
TKE consists of drummer Caleb Dolister, bassist Gael Petrina and saxophonist Warren Walker. For 10 years, the trio has been refining their approach towards instrumental composition and production. Their music is multi-textural, adventurous, dark and rhythmic; it can be equally filled with risk and cohesion while navigating atypical time structures. Petrina and Walker’s appreciation for electronica inspires their methodical use of effect pedals to create lush dimensions of texture, and Dolister’s open admiration of heavier bands like Meshuggah or crossover projects like Jaga Jazzist often influences a rigor and attack in his drumming paired with polyrhythmic complexity. Despite the challenges of not easily identifying with a specific genre, there are clear undertones of Pop, Rock, and several flavors of Electronica. But before any genre is applied, the primary focus is always on composition, as often most of the pieces are composed from the first note to the last. This helps a project rooted in jazz to never come off as unintentional, lost in direction, dissonant or arrhythmic. Instead, most pieces will identify less with the avant-garde than will Pop. Each band member comes from strong background founded on improvisation and jazz-studies, and there are many opportunities for the songs to open up for solos or playful group exploration. But it is with maturity and experience that they manage to sound like a band fully realizing a solid musical vision, rather than a band grasping toward one.
Formed in Paris, 2007, The Kandinsky Effect originally formed as a jazz project with their original Parisian drummer Gautier Garrigue. They started with some electronic influences, but the early approach to compositions implemented a much more acoustic sound with occasional effect pedal use; upright bass and Aphex Twin covers, or funky grooves in 15/8.
“When we first came together, we were all into composition in our own ways. Most of our songs started with one of us introducing an idea or a conceptual sketch to the other two—then we’d complete that idea and the arrangement by working together. You could hear all our influences in the finished piece, but it was also like a fourth distinct musical vision emerged because of our collaborative approach. That’s basically how we started and that’s how we still write our songs,” explains Walker.
In 2010, they released their Self-titled debut LP on SNP Records. The album was labeled “organic” and “forward-thinking” by All About Jazz, and gained enough attention to pave the way for the band to start touring in the U.S. and explore deeper into Europe.
Due to the expensive costs of travel, Caleb Dolister was invited to cover a few U.S. tours. Dolister and Warren had known each other in college (University of Nevada, Reno), and this provided a perfect chance for them to finally work on a project together. After several tours in 2009 and 2010, Caleb Dolister officially assumed full-time percussion duties. The guys had already started arranging music for their next album while traveling with Dolister and his contributions were clearly seeping into the music.
In September 2011, they traveled with Dolister to Iceland to perform at the Reykjavik Jazz Festival and were awarded with an opportunity to record at Studio Syria, Hafnarfjordur with Icelandic producer Guðmundar Kristins Jónssonar (AKA Kidda í Hjálmum). The tracks were later mixed and post produced at Birdfood Studios with engineer Sam Minaie (bassist for Tigran Hamasyan and Melody Gardot), and mastered by Nate Wood (Kneebody). The resulting album, Synesthesia, was released in January 2013 on Cuneiform Records and received several high-praising reviews in the international jazz community.
TKE continued touring the U.S., Europe, and Canada throughout 2013, and began planning a follow up for Cuneiform Records in early 2014. Sonically, Synesthesia had been a major departure from the acoustic jazz concept in the band’s roots, with its heavier percussion and electric bass. It was a critical break in shaping a new identity. However, from a composition standpoint it still felt a collection of tunes that had been written over the course of several years and was missing a cohesive voice. When the band began writing for the next record, one of the main goals was to write a record that had this consistent sound throughout. In an attempt to reach this goal, one person would compose an idea, and another would attempt to write another that would compliment it.
By April 2014, the band had several thematic songs in hand and headed into Le Studio des Egreffins, in Videlles, France to track Somnambulist. It was a critially short short session, tracked in a stressful 2.5 days with recording engineer Nicolas Charlier. The album was later mixed by Sam Minaie, and mastered by Nate Wood. Cuneiform Records released it in January of 2015. Igloo Magazine called it “wild, unorthodox, rebellious, explosive,” and “without a doubt one of the most individual-sounding, refreshing and outrageous forces currently operating in the more exciting fringes of the musical spectrum.” Pop Matters simply claimed “we need more of this.” Despite the challenges in making the album, it was well received and gained steady traction while the group toured throughout 2015.
In April 2016, the band headed to Maison des Artistes in Chamonix, France to work on a new record. Nicolas Charlier again joined as recording engineer, and the band spent an entire week living at the studio, working in the middle of the night or early in the morning to fine tune the design of each new song. It was mixed and mastered by Sam Minaie in early 2017.
“We’ve definitely evolved—reached a new level. Pax 6 is more than a collection of 10 more new Kandinsky Effect songs to us, it showcases where playing live, in the studio and writing together for ten years has been able to take us as a trio. I think that comes through for anyone who listens,” says Petrina.
If Synesthesia was an exploration in identity, and Somnambulist an exercise in composition, Pax 6 is the inevitable evolution of 10 years of touring, recording, traveling, and living a life realized through the eyes of modern post jazz realization. The Kandinsky Effect know who they are and what they want to share. Pax 6 captures their visions of a dark, rhythmic landscape, and presents it carefully and intently.
Warren Walker - Saxophone/Synthesizer/Effects
Gael Petrina - Bass/Effects
Caleb Dolister - Drums
Recorded at Maison des Artistes-Chamonix, France
Recording Engineer: Nicolas Charlier
Mixed and Mastered by Sam Minaie-Bird Food Studio New York
All arrangements by The Kandinsky Effect