The Sound of 2012 Michael Kiwanuka

You may have first heard of native north Londoner Michael Kiwanuka back in January this year when he won the BBC's Sound of 2012. You may have seen his debut video for "Tell a Tale" which was filmed in Berlin and featured sumptuous shots of Super-8 analogue goodness. Or you may have heard those warm analogue tones of his songs smoothing out of the radio and thought to yourself ..."who is this undiscovered gem of a soul singer from the late 60s/early 70s ?". 

Well, as his BBC award shows he is very much an artist of today. Often compared to a string of legends such as Bill Withers & Van Morrison, he's definitely his own man with his own style, a man of analogue style.

Michael Kiwanuka with a sitar in the kitchen, unusual? Not at all!
Michael Kiwanuka at London's Toerag Studios
Michael released a couple of EPs last year and in March this year his major label debut LP for Polydor Records "Home Again" was released, all of which were produced and recorded by Paul Butler (head honcho of the eclectic & eccentric band, The Bees!) in his predominantly analogue favoured Steam Room Studios on the Isle of White (always handy for Bestival!). Along with producing his own recordings Paul "chicken shack" Butler has also co-produced Devendra Banhart’s last album "What Will We Be" over in Bolinas, North California. 

It's no surprise to see Michael join forces with Paul, commenting on why he thought Paul was the right man for the job Michael states "It’s just his take on sound, really".

After reading an interview with engineer Russell Elevado, who recorded D’Angelo’s landmark album "Voodoo", Michael seemed to have realised his search for a sound..."he was just describing how they recorded it with old tape machines and old amplifiers, and most of it was to tape, and the kit didn’t have millions of mics around it. I was like, ‘Well if it works for new and old, it’s gonna be universal.’ So I figured that’s the best way to record music.”

Michael in Paul Butler's Steam Room Studios - Photo Samuel John Butt
 From the photo above let's check the studio's analogue credentials:
  • Fender Rhodes - check
  • Roland SH-101 analogue synth - check
  • Roland Space Echo tape echo/spring reverb - check
  • TL Audio 5021 valve compressor - check 
  • Fender Twin Reverb - check
  • Fender 2 x 15" cabinet - check 
  • Maracas in rastafarian colours - check
 Oh and a Reslo RB Ribbon Microphone check, check, check!

Carrying on the analogue theme (what else would you expect on the Reslo blog), the picture of Michael above was taken by photographer Samuel John Butt while recording his first EP on the Isle of Wight. You'll be pleased to know that it was shot on film and Sam describes himself as a big fan of the analogue process, be it in photography, music or film. Check out his sites here: Sam's website, Sam's tumblr blogSam's blogspot.

Michael Kiwanuka filming his debut "Tell a Tale" featuring lots of Super-8 footage

As a fan a good music Michael naturally veered to the analogue side of life. Commenting on an acoustic recording of Otis Redding's classic "Sitting on the Dock of The Bay" Michael noted that..."It was quite raw, it didn't have the electric guitar, it had some horns but it was really raw. You could hear the engineers talking over it while the acoustic guitar was strumming and I loved that sound. And then the glorious voice started."

You can really see this influence on some of the low key acoustic performances from Michael where he'd be joined simply by double bass & flute as seen on his BBC "Later...with Jools Holland" appearance.

To add to this warm soul lineage Michael has also played with Bill Withers's drummer James Gadson..."That was pretty crazy, I did some sessions with him, worked on some tunes - he still sounds the same." 

Check out this video of Bill Withers performing "Ain't No Sunshine" in the same BBC TV studios as Michael's Later appearence some 40 years earlier.

Having played with the likes of Adele and those analogue fiends The Black Keys (check out their collaboration on "Lasan"), Michael is currently on tour in America so our friends over the pond get the chance witness the Kiwanuka experience. He's also working on a new album so there's much to look forward to.


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