It’s been a month since Kaytranada’s first LP 99.9% came out and we’ve been listening to it non-stop. The hype for the album snowballed, especially in the DJ and producer’s hometown of Montreal, in anticipation for his homecoming concert that rocked the Metropolis on May 19th. And the attention around the album and Kaytranada doesn’t seem like it’s going away anytime soon. After a month of listening to the album, whether dancing to its infectious rhythms while washing the dishes, or sinking back into the sweaty bus seat with its textured synths in our headphones, we’re sure it’s going to be playing around the city all summer long, even long after Kay comes back for his set at the Osheaga mainstage in July.
Track Uno is a simple yet catchy first song that sets the mood and gives us a taste of what Kaytranada wants to say with his first album. Distinguishing himself as more than just a internet remixer or Ibiza crowd favourite, Track Uno at first sounds like the beats we all fooled around with on FruityLoops and GarageBand which is fitting because that’s just how Kaytranada got his start. The song builds from video game blips, familiar playful electronic synths and fairy chimes, that are reminiscent of cheesy disco riffs, to Kay layering the basics together with ease and eventually breaking it down to a bouncy bass line. Track Uno tells us the story of his debut as a young producer who got his start with the all the same tools that were accessible to his fans. By the end of the song though, it’s clear that this is someone who has skills beyond after-school messing around. The whole production is a teaser of what Kaytranada can do with the most raw elements and the starting point of the development of the album.
Kay’s masterfully mixes a whole array of different genres from trip hop, to 90’s techno, to Brazilian samba, and even hints of Haitian Kompa – all while making it it extremely danceable. Lite Spots is a particular fave of ours – reigning us in slowly with deep reverb and a modulating pitch that flows nicely into the groovy 70’s guitar and trumpet melody. The simple electronic drum machine simulates a playful clapping beat; you can visualize being transposed from Kay’s South Shore basement room to a bopping neighborhood party in Port-au-Prince.
90’s R&B also largely influences his music. We have to remember the Janet Jackson remix that was his soundcloud bread and butter. He paid homage to TLC at his packed Metropolis concert projecting the pair as his backup dancers. He also dropped some of his new sexy tracks such as One Too Many and You’re The One, with booming bass lines at decibel levels way higher than is safely advisable. The crowd was feeling it hard, pulling out some old school hip hop moves while still preserving a lounge chill. Needless to say that Kaytranada is just as good of a live performer as he is a producer.
Glowed Up, the third single on the album, showcases the effortlessness with which Kaytranada seems to be able to collaborate and make tracks that fit his collaborators’ skills, while still maintaining his distinct style and desired mood of the album. On 99.9%, Kay has invited an impressive mix of artists from varying musical backgrounds: from the moody Swedish synth-pop group Little Dragon, to up and coming MC Vic Mensa, to the talented funk and soul singer Anderson Paak. Paak and Kay make a great pairing considering Paak’s first album also just came out in January to a very warm reception and the full support of his patron Dr. Dre. The two create a smooth and mellow mood, that is balanced by the addition of light poppy chimes, glib references to theremin and a backdrop of synth string plucks that sound like we’re walking into a cave full of echoey drips. Throughout the song, Kaytranada shows that he is on top of his game. As Paak’s velvety style is seamlessly integrated into the song, and Kay’s signature wobbly synth treble still prominently leads, it feels as if the two have been collaborating for years.
To say he’s a producer still finding his groove would be disingenuous. If anything, the album is evidence that Kaytranada is a producer who has found his place and is very comfortable immersing himself into a multitude of musical contexts and expanding the possibilities of collaboration. Bullets is the perfect cherry-on-top, conclusion to the LP, offering a mystical, sensual vibe with Little Dragon’s eerie vocals. The juxtaposition of worrisome lyrics (“bullets flying… everyone’s crying”) with Yukumi Nagano’s soft voice leaves us confused, yet enticed to know where Kay will bring us in his next work. Kay clearly has an extensive toolbox afforded to him by his newfound fame and the 2 years concentrated on Djing and his music.
The album has entirely fulfilled the title. This isn’t just a young kid with a soundcloud account and a couple of tricks up his sleeve, Kaytranada is giving us all he’s got and what he’s got is a full bag. 99.9% shows Kaytranada is fully capable of defying the stereotype of internet remixer, club DJ, backing producer or whatever mold people have tried to fit him into.
– Review by Jess Newfield and Derek Colley