Lanark, Scotland is a place called home for singer-songwriter Craig Snape aka Kung Fu Jesus who fuses classic rock n roll with electro rhythms and Beach Boy inspired harmonies, combined with lyrics covering social injustice and spiritual ideology. His latest 10 track album, entitled “The Kantele Tapes”, had each of its tracks individually written and recorded in one day as Kung Fu Jesus followed the creative technique he describes as: “first thought best thought”. “The Kantele Tapes” builds on “Celestial Gold”, the artist’s previous album release, to further develop his distinctive sound which stands apart as a new piece of work.
Though each track is an entire story, in my opinion, this recording is best experienced as an ‘album’ – a singular, unified and at times cosmic vision of the world. The many layers of “The Kantele Tapes” are uncomplicated and meticulously constructed to ensure there is no production waste.
The band’s music is checkered with stylistic flourishes: its up-tempo, atmospheric, melodic and a little dreamy. By using a combination of traditional structures with electronic instruments, Kung Fu Jesus sounds a little retro, a little futuristic, but never processed. There’s a harmonious layer to the band’s sound that keeps it all grounded.
“The Kantele Tapes” begins with “Freight Train”, a song that seems to dictate the course of the album. The progressions in the music are uplifting, the vocals are arioso, and the percussion is overtly rhythmic. The songs and instruments seem to coalesce together; the instruments become a sound, the sound becomes songs, the songs become an album.
This is great for Kung Fu Jesus, and even though the album at times has a tinge of the new wave movement from the 80’s, Kung Fu Jesus isn’t pockmarked by its trappings; it feels uniquely modern.
Gorgeous and lavish, but without the opulence, are the first thoughts that come to mind listening to the smoothly driven, “Telephonik” and “Shine A Light”. We like to think we know who we are and what we are doing, and yet beneath the surface we all harbor feelings of love, regret, fear, and hope.
The music from “The Kantele Tapes”, in a way, speaks directly to the things we hide beneath our surfaces. But the album does not merely speak, it seduces and convinces us.
We soar or slump when the music turns in a particular direction, and if you have some empathy for this music, you will be taken on a journey to nostalgic places and some others you were not expecting – “Promised Land”, “Let The Sun Shine” and “KFC” will definitely be nostalgic, while “Super Saiyan”, “Story of Four” and “Photon” are unexpected, and stunning, to say the least. These latter three tracks alone, make the album worth listening to. Amazing beats, driving basslines, choice instrumentation, deft arrangements, and sublime melody and harmonies set these songs apart.
All round though, the music is mesmerizing, but never boring. There are lots of interesting melodies and clever hooks, and Craig Snape’s singing is entrancing. “The Kantele Tapes”, is probably Kung Fu Jesus’ finest set of songs to date. It’s certainly his most realized; it oozes with self-belief and a dogged commitment to perfection. And the rest of us will revel in the sheer understated musical craftsmanship on display here.
Also creating a buzz is the upcoming Kung Fu Jesus IOS and Android game app, so keep your eyes open for that!