Mark Kastner Puts Renowned "Galaxian" Alias on Hold to Release Debut Album as "Kas" [REVIEW]
The mysterious Glaswegian diverges from his established main project to conceive one that brings us closer to his true identify than ever before.
For over a decade now, Munich powerhouse Ilian Tape has helped fundamentally change the way modern club music is perceived. The widely acclaimed label is home to a legendary group of artists that stretch beyond the borders of Germany and overflow into Europe and rest of the world. For our latest journey with the Ilian sound explorers, we pay a visit to Glasgow.
With a strong 2020 highlighted by a stunning sophomore album from Ilian Tape co-founders Zenker Brothers, as well as having two of our top 20 albums of last year, 2021 is set to be an incredible one for the collective. With highly anticipated releases teased such as the sequel to Skee Mask's magnum opus Compro, along with debuts from new artists joining their roster, the crew will likely stay busy through the entire calendar. What took us by surprise was the debut release of Kas, best known as Mark Kastner of Galaxian, in the form of a full-length album titled Like Sunlit Threads. The mysterious Glaswegian diverges from his established main project to conceive one that brings us closer to his true identify than ever before.
We were honored to have been contacted by the Ilian Tape team for a review of Kastner's new album Like Sunlit Threads - thank you Dario for reaching out to us.
I first stumbled across Kastner's work as Galaxian in 2018 after his stellar Boiler Room live set performed at Present Perfect Festival in Russia. Masked up and wearing a helmet, his enigmatic look quickly caught my attention - his distinct take on Detroit-style electro is what motivated me to do more research. I then found that his discography held its ground as some of the most unique club music heard in recent time. It felt as electric and powerful in energy as it did touchy and cinematic - as groovy as it felt serious. With support from fabled giants like Aphex Twin when he played "You Don't Matter" live in 2019, Galaxian became the underground's best kept secret.
With his main project being glorified as one of club music's recent rising talents, the question then became: why did Kastner decide to create another alias? That was eagerly answered in his newest album - the debut of Kas with Like Sunlit Threads. Rather than steering his sound in a different direction, he built off the setting he has already created for himself: sharp-edged electro containing unapologetically rough drums, transforming basslines, and vocoded samples that drag the listener into an unsettling future. Though this all exists in his newest project, he gravitates more towards having a thematic experience that requires more planning than a standard dance record. Being a fan of electro and its vast history, comparisons can be made to Drexciya and their ability to create their entire mystical world based on Afrofuturism. Like Sunlit Threads does its own storytelling by splitting its time between club-ready tracks and ambient bits; the fluctuation is consistent and allows a more emotional story to unfold. It truly feels like a complete art project - an oil painting as the cover art and a PDF containing a lovely poem written by Kastner gracefully accompany the audio.
Shortly after the introduction of the album, the title track Like Sunlit Threads introduces an ancestral voice that takes control of the stereo; it feels both attentive and familiar. For some reason, it created vivid imagery and reminded me of an old, wise tree talking down to the main character of this realm. This sets an important premise for the entire project - based on the time of the year it was released, the record embodies the concept of spring. It is the season where where metamorphosis happens and life is reborn. In typical Kastner fashion, percussion sneaks its way into the soundscape along with some mellow horns in the background - the story begins.
My favorite track in the album is easily Mystery Beyond Mystery. Though it begins as a standard Kastner song with shapeshifting pads in the stereo and a consistent kick-snare combo in an electro-inspired pattern, it slowly builds up to a monumental point where all that is left is a crushed bassline. It is then succeeded by a return of the track's elements that simply feels epic. It is playful overall and reminds the listener that Kastner can still a create dancefloor secret weapon amid this emotive piece - classic, "in your face" electro that felt necessary to include in the progression of the record.
Mentioned before, the album sways back and forth between electro-based songs and ambient moments. The middle point of the record once again displays Kastner's abilities to write energetic hits. Holographic Matrix Of Informational Totality takes on a faster tempo than previously heard, inviting morphing and delay effects to an already heavy track. The bassline tears out of the soundscape at times, creating a chaotic moment of uncertainty. It almost seems like a live section of Kastner's famed live performances as Galaxian.
The closing moments of the album leave the listener with more curiosity than anything - this is cleverly done by reintroducing the spoken-word narration mixed over the final two tracks. In Logos Triggering Agent, Kastner effortlessly blends the narrator's deep, unsettling voice over his familiar song structure. This then carries over to the record's outro. Deeply Rooted Peace embodies its name as it brings the listener to a warmer, more welcoming setting than heard before - almost like a reincarnation. The soft synths fill the stereo with an uplifting ambiance and the sound of a distant storm creates a memorable ending to the journey endured.
How Kastner ended up creating an album like this is no coincidence - his expedition through sound as Galaxian lead him to the outcome, even though Kas truly seems like a step above his past. He evidently chose not to relinquish what brought him under the global spotlight in the first place. Instead, he progresses with what he once started to deliver a record that feels entirely personal and a new foundation to build upon. Both Kastner and Ilian Tape took a sizeable risk when creating this project as it ultimately is a step away from their game-winning formula - the result is an unforgettable eighth full-length album release for the crew and one that sets them back up at the snowy peak of the club music mountain yet again.
Like Sunlit Threads is out now on all major platforms; the release can also be directly supported by purchasing it on Bandcamp.
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