The Kuala Lumpur music community has always been known for its thriving band scene, but over the last couple of years, there's been an electronic renaissance bubbling in the underground. Producers are starting to gain attention over there and across the Causeway, and one of the people spearheading that movement has definitely been Adam Kasturi.
The word "visionary" gets thrown around a lot, but let's get this straight, this man's music is all that word implies and more. He's crafted three Daliesque full-length albums so far - Jaguar, Mitos and most recently Amok (released independently just a couple months ago), but if you delve a little deeper, you'll find yourself overwhelmed by an avalanche of original tracks, collaborations and remixes put up quietly on SoundCloud. Everything is adventurous and pure quality through and through, so much so, that you'll be wondering how one can be so prolific and yet so disregarded by the masses.
Part of it is down to to his intentionally low-profile, but part of it is also down to the fact that he's simply an outlier in terms of sound and aesthetics, making it challenging for casuals to get into. His tracks are intellectual, full of purpose and annotated by anomalous structure and capacious sonic compounds. His dystopian soundscapes can be jarring because Adam Kasturi breaks ground so frequently that listeners sometimes struggle to find their footing.
Nevertheless, Adam Kasturi's work is something that needs to be heard today, so we got the elusive beatsmith to explain the narrative and meaning behind Amok's post-apocalyptic, anti-hero journey.
Hi Adam! Amok absolutely blew us away. What was the process of writing and producing it like?
Thanks! The whole process was pretty intense and also taxing, man. Because each song has its own challenges you know - mixing it, finding the right idea, right mindset, details, consistency, story and emotion to push, I guess. All while working around my limitations. It's all trial and error for me. It took me like a year and half to complete them. I think the most difficult part was trying to grasp that moment of relief, moment of enlightenment or eureka or whatever. You know, that moment when you bump into or hit the right chords, the right feels, and also selecting the ones that leave a lasting impression on me. These things, the process is still a mystery to me someway. Maybe that's why I'm still at it; still trying to create something better than my last one.
I also wanted each track to represent a feeling, a soundtrack to a landscape that fits my head space and significant segments of my life, what I see, my interpretation of my own surroundings. So the process of translating that can be quite tricky and pain in the ass. Of course, there are a few tracks that didn't make it to the album cos they get too complicated even for me. (Laughs) I'll get back to them when the time is right, maybe.
Just in terms of structure and sound, the new album feels a little more adventurous. Did you intend to push your boundaries with Amok’s production?
Yeah, it was a conscious attempt to at least challenge the sonics of my previous albums Jaguar and Mitos. I was experimenting a lot with textures, sound palette and structure after I did Mitos, you know, the basic stuff. I think the transition was pretty logical, I was applying what I learnt throughout the years, pouring everything into Amok. Well, not everything but you know what I mean.
Being lyricless, it's kind of hard to pinpoint, but all through 27 tracks, it feels like the music was an outlet for you grapple with something. Was there an internal narrative in your head as you wrote these tracks?
I always been fascinated by something apocalyptic whether it be in poetry, concept or art. There's something romantic about that. But when I named the album Amok, I was associating it with something positive really, microscoping the desire to change for the better. The basic human and rebellion instinct and struggle to evolve, to understand the complexities and duality of man. It's about realizing our truest potential really, to become Ubermensch, our core, our essence.
It could also be about culture, local and universal history, urban myth and modern day man’s psyche. The project explores this anti-hero quest throughout the metropolis - the real one and also imaginary, dealing with or his reactions towards the f*ckery around him. If you look closely the narrative is quite obvious, it's about breaking away from mediocrity. This is necessary. The last track on the album, 'Planemo', is probably the core value of Amok.
Comparing Jaguar to now, what would you say is the biggest difference in Adam Kasturi the artist?
I think I am more comfortable with my sounds now and maybe more critical too. (Laughs) And I'm no longer comparing myself with others, that's good for me mentally I think, to not give a f*ck about what others are up to and thinking, and just focusing on being me and pushing myself to the limit.
You first came to our attention with your outstanding contributions to Order Records’ Order Vol 1. Gema and Darren Dubwise spoke very highly of you and kind of put your name out there in the SG scene. Are you still working with the label?
Yes, I do. I consider them as family though. And I have a huge respect for Gema and Darren and the things they do over there in Singapore. So big shout out to them! And I am always honoured to be part of their project. Matter of fact we're working on the second volume as we speak. So yeah, keep an eye on that one.
Describe the Malaysian underground electronic scene for us today? Across the Causeway we’ve always taken notice of Malaysia’s thriving band scene, but it feels like young producers and DJs are really starting to take off in the last couple of years.
The scene is growing and thriving, I think. I'm not really sure about the crowd to be honest, but yeah we kinda have an abundance of talented sick producers and minds here. We have people like Pradana, Mushroom Buttons, VMPRMYTH and the youngins like f r s, Aliuddin, Shelhiel to name a few. And most of us are pretty low-key, so normal music listeners have to dig deeper to find out more. It's more like a if-you-know-you-know kinda thing.
What’s next for Adam Kasturi?
Can't tell you much but I've been working on several interesting projects for next year!
UNTRUE | BURIAL
Its pretty obvious innit? LOL. This album changed how I view electronic music in general when it first came out.
SAM BAKER'S ALBUM | SAMIYAM
A E S T H E T I C S.
DRUKQS | APHEX TWIN
What a masterpiece.
WHERE WERE U IN '92 | ZOMBY
LOS ANGELES | FLYING LOTUS
Great soundtrack for driving + meditation + zzzz.