Commune is the debut full-length album from Singapore’s Kin Leonn. Now based in London, Leonn brings his expertise as a producer, composer and pianist to the album format, and in doing so he opens up a new palette of ambient sound. His background as a DJ, as well as being the founding member of electronic act ‘Midst’ , lies in Commune’s foundation, and it showcases an impressive width within his musical sphere. On Commune, which ‘transmutes the city dross into a peaceful self-discovery in search of spiritual unity’, Leonn elevates his music, taking stylistic particles and aural fingerprints from his past and reshaping them until they form a reflective and effervescent soundtrack to city life.
Although rooted to the pedestrian, the everyday, the rain, and the rush of life in London, the listener enters an ambient dream-world made possible through escapism; the chaos of rush hour on the tube is still the same experience, but its eyes are different. The chaos becomes an afterthought, turning a necessary evil into a still meditation, and a negative experience into a new moment. The clanking track and the piercing screech of the bending rail fades into obscurity; Oxford Street becomes an empty space despite its heaving crowds, and London turns peaceful, its pigeons transforming into doves. Lighting up like an amber dawn over the city are exhaled echoes of guitar, its melodies encased in an eternal contrail of reverb.
Coupled with gloriously bright synth work, Commune becomes exactly what its title promises. But it isn’t just a time-out: it invokes deep contemplation, not so much tuning out as tuning in, and becoming more aware of things in the present moment. In that sense, the music isn’t too dissimilar to mindfulness meditation, and it certainly invokes peace. A piano with wings takes to the air, but Commune isn’t inclined to search for a new home. A countryside getaway isn’t on its mind. Instead, it embraces the urban sprawl, perhaps finding a park in the midst of the skyscrapers, stores, and offices. London is home. Its streets are grey and life is busy, because even the piano, a continuous stream of notes, is physically active, getting its daily 10,000 steps in. But the fountain of notes feels like a refreshing massage and not an overcrowded carriage.
Leonn’s electronic background allows him the chance to tastefully combine the two areas of piano and electronic music, the two worlds of classical and contemporary gently colliding. Authentic beats emerge later on, and while this is a dominating trend in ambient music, made popular through the likes of Nils Frahm and other contemporary artists, it still feels fresh, graceful, and the album doesn’t drown in its rhythms. The brief energetic outlet fades away and a synth returns, minus the beats. Continuous piano interweaves with soft electronics and stable strings, and there’s a feeling of quiet, almost euphoric happiness in just sitting here, taking it all in. It’s life with headphones on, muting the city sounds while engaging ever more with its urban jungle.