Brixton-based DJ and producer Kamixlo will release his debut album Cicatriz on PAN Records on 30 October 2020.
Once hazy and malleable, the future has rarely felt more perilously close and disturbingly distant. The strange uncertainty of springtime has ordered itself into a repetitive spiral of grim normality, but for artists, there is precious little hope on the horizon. It's an awkward time to be releasing music: with events on hold for the moment, the reliable rhythm of write, release, and tour has been silenced, leaving producers to rethink not only the viability of putting out music without the promised financial and social rewards of the global circuit, but also their reasons for creating art in the first place. In the UK, the entertainment industry's commercial potential is being debated on the national stage, leaving nightlife workers in a position so precarious that even a stray consideration of the future is struck through with a sense of doom.
Kamixlo's debut album Cicatriz wasn't written in lockdown, but it captures 2020's snowballing anxiety with surprising ease. "The way the world feels, it's probably the perfect time for me to drop it," he tells me from his South London flat. Kami (his given first name; he prefers to keep his surname off-record) assembled the album during an emotional period of his life; the album's title means "scar" in Spanish, and coincided with a difficult series of events that left deep marks on the producer. "For the last three years, my mental health situation hasn't been great, and my personal relationships, friendships, all seemed to be deteriorating around the same time." Bala Club, the acclaimed label and influential party series he ran with his brother Uli K and best friend Endgame, came to an end around this time, and to top it all off, Kami's grandfather passed away. "He's the one that taught me music. He supported my music," he recalls. "[His passing] was just the big ‘fuck you’ in my life at the end of everything else."
An air of sadness surrounds Cicatriz through its flurries of clattering beats, dense, heaving bass, and alien atmospheres. It's an unashamedly cinematic record, with a strong narrative that paints an emotionally complex picture while allowing just enough room for catharsis. "The more atmospheric songs were sonic interpretations of how I was feeling at the time, but throughout that, I did manage to record this album. I managed to do something good from all of that. It's bittersweet." Writing an album had been on Kami's mind since long before he struck gold in 2015 with “Paleta,” the anthemic industrial banger that was cosigned by “intelligent dance music” deity Aphex Twin. "As a kid, I was obsessed with albums. I'd listen to cheesy prog rock albums or concept albums. I got grouped into club music early on, but I was super excited for when I could just be like, “Fuck it” and go concept album on y'all."
Since the early days of Bala Club, Kami has been notorious for centering an infectious genre agnosticism that's now commonplace in the hyperpop era. His mixes routinely melt an obsession with the reggaeton he fell in love with as a child in Chile and the decadent '90s nu-metal rumble of Korn and Limp Bizkit into a pixelated digital syrup of contemporary underground club aesthetics. These sounds are still present on Cicatriz, but are now warped beyond recognition. "I was listening to The Locust, more noise rock and grindcore-type shit," he reveals mischievously. "I feel like this album is probably the least dancey thing I've made." But despite the album being personal, emotional, and narrative-driven, Kami is quick to explain that none of this context is compulsory. "I want people to come up with their own feelings. I hope it can bring out a good—or whatever—emotion for whoever listens to it."
Without touring on his mind, Kami is already working on new material in-between Pokémon Go sessions at the park. "I'll just focus more on videos and stuff I can share online," he tells me optimistically. "I always have anxieties of how things would translate in a venue, so I don't have that now." If anyone can turn a period of stasis into an opportunity for creative experimentation, it's an artist like Kamixlo - a digital native who has long been comfortable with new digital methods of reaching fans scattered across the world. His optimism is refreshing and necessary. "Hopefully something interesting comes from me not doing shows."