Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.
My First Impressions of The City by the Sea by Kizunaut
Kizunaut’s album The City by the Sea takes a dark, lacerating look at the society in which we live and the ways it presses down on us, as well as our yearning to escape its strictures. It combines growling guitar, rough-edged synth, and Kizunaut’s cold, stark vocal delivery to produce a portrait of the less pleasant aspects of modern society that goes to the heart of the matter.
The way that The City by the Sea combines Kizunaut’s uncompromising lyrics and his cutting voice drives home the album's message. This isn’t a gentle or ear-warming sound but it suits the overall sensation of sharp-edged darkness that permeates the album. There’s something relentless about his voice that insists that you listen to what he’s saying and not look away from what’s being exposed.
The combination of growling guitar with the underlying drums and bass that often batter and drive forward with aggression adds to the effect of darkness and weight that fills The City by the Sea. There’s a threatening feeling that looms over all of the music, the sense of an incipient danger about to spill over into something more drastic.
Kizunaut has also created some contrast on the album by adding wandering, brighter and higher synth lines and melodies that shine over the top. They are not gentle or sweet in nature but they do add a counterpoint that makes them stand out against the uncompromisingly hard musical backdrop of the rest of the album.
My Favourite Tracks Analyzed
“The City by the Sea”
“The City by the Sea” starts out with the sound of water over dark synth depths. The song has an ominous quality to it and the dark synths grow in volume over a throbbing beat that moves in uneven pulses. There are drifts of synth with a metallic edge and organ chords underneath it. I feel the pull from the harsh clarity of Kizunaut’s voice as cuts in with the rough-edged pulses of synth moving under it. Now the track breaks into roiling, whirling synth and that relentless beat continues to press on. This is a track full of a tension and darkness that I enjoy.
A tale of a journey into a dark place fills this song. It begins on a hopeful note in the lines, “I remember what I felt when we first sailed in here, the world was wide open and we were so young.” I like the imagery in the words, “Our fantasies shimmered like neon against the dark sea.”
Those fantasies quickly gave way to disillusionment as the narrator says, “Nothing worked out the way that we hoped and so much of what we were sank to the ocean floor.” There’s a bleak assessment in the chorus as it says, “Lured in by the beautiful lights of the city by the sea, we're stuck in here this people machine.”
Kizunaut does a fine job of evoking a sense of emptiness in the line, “I stand by the breakwater and I gaze out to the sea, the winds here are so cold and cold is my soul.” The narrator’s friends are “long gone” and as he says, “I no longer dream.”
There’s a sense of loss and apathy in the lines, “The old friends are long gone and the trade winds bring new things but nothing excites me.” Ultimately the narrator concludes, “I want to leave again but where would I go when every city in the world is a city by the sea.”
Rapid, harsh pulses of synth open “California Baby” as a chiming synth cuts through in bursts along with a rough-edged overdriven guitar that growls along with Kizunaut’s fierce voice. The way that the guitar snarls as the beat keeps throbbing and the bright synths burst through it is compelling. The beat keeps on relentlessly pulsing as computerized bursts of synth move through the grunt of the guitar.
A message of anomie in a society driven by consumption and a love of forgetting what matters dominates the lyrics of this song. There’s a nice cyberpunk reference in the lines, “California baby lives in Blade Runner City It is a big place and things, well they get crazy.”
As the song goes on, the delineation of a consumer society comes in the line, “California baby she's a real cutie honey. Oh, all the things she'd do if she just had the money.” I was drawn to this image of, “California baby, walking on the streets of rage breathing in amnesia haze.”
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“Parallel Worldlines” begins with the soft sound of a train on the tracks, wet splatters of rain and high, tense chimes of synth. I like the contrast of the deep, hard-edged bass throb and the pulsating drumbeat with those chimes over top.
Kizunaut’s voice cuts into the track, razor-edged, as the guitar slashes sharply into the song along with it. I am drawn to the lacerating quality of the music. There’s static and growl to the track along with the hard-hitting beat as it is driven forward aggressively with the pulses of gruff guitar slamming into the track.
In this world of social media isolation and general physical isolation, we seem to be living in our own individual worlds. As the song starts, the idea is established in the words, “We walk the same streets passing by without a trace. We have our public faces and the ones we hide.”
The sense of the distance between us echoes from the chorus’ words, “Our parallel worldlines keep drifting apart.” The erasure of distance by digital communication with the attendant irony of separation is conveyed nicely in the lines, “We flicker in and out casting data streams. We try to reach through the void in between.”
I also enjoy the imagery in the final verse when Kizunaut writes, “God didn't smite Babylon, that tower fell down on it's own. It bent and fractured from the weight of our souls.”
There is a feeling of open space around the edgy pulses of synth, metallic sounds, and a general sense of floating as “Freeze” starts. The main melody is played on a distorting higher synth and a quick pulse of bass throbs in rapid patterns into the music.
Ghostly sounds that drift in behind Kizunaut’s voice before the creaking, growling notes slash into the music add to the atmosphere of disconnection. I also like the roving lead melody as it flows in over the harshness and sharp edges of the guitar. There's an interesting lead synth solo that has a lost and wandering feeling to it as it floats over the powerful background.
A Reference to Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash:
This song references Neal Stephenson’s seminal cyberpunk novel Snow Crash in the song here. There’s an ominous feeling in the opening lines, “I can feel the winter all around me. I have seen the storms they are rising. There is danger as the song says, “The seasons change, people don’t. We have seen this all before. What we build cannot last.”
The chorus is a dire prediction of what will happen should we fail to change course as it says, “Nothing's enough, so we freeze. All systems fail so we freeze. All systems fail in a snow crash.”
The bleakness continues in the words, “We're all alone in this frozen city. We're all so drained of our warmth here” and although we may dream of a “better world of prosperity and control. Ultimately we find that “no matter how far we will go, we remain human.”
“Thirsty” begins with deep, shifting pulses of bass that form a throbbing pattern. They swell into the music along with a dark string-like synth and steady drums.
Kizunaut’s voice chants into the music, the dark synth pattern forming a catchy beat under his cool lyrical delivery. A melody that is quite bright cuts into the music on a chiming synth before we get back to that bouncing string-like synth and the continual heartbeat of the rhythm as the music presses on.
There’s desire and passion overflowing in this song. The mood is set by the lines, “When the sun goes down and the night falls, we want something special to relieve our pressures. Someone to escape with to the lap of pleasure.” A sensual surrender permeates the lines, “I'm the real thing baby so have me when you're thirsty. I’m the real thing baby so eat me when you're hungry.”
In spite of the fact that, “people are so cold and they are so cruel with their scarred hearts eyes that have seen all” this song points out that our yearning doesn’t diminish because, “this instinct in me is what you feel too.”
"Up In Smoke”
An unevenly stuttering bass with a hard edge moves to open "Up In Smoke.” There’s a xylophone-like high synth that doubles the bouncing, juddering pattern of the bass. My ears are drawn to the way in which the harsh growl of synth that bursts over the beats and bass balances with a smoother, warmer synth playing a brighter melody over the top of it.
The themes of this song are of letting go, leaving the past behind, and allowing it to “go up in smoke.” As the lyrics open, there’s a clear expression in the words, “Life can be quite hard, it can get quite dark…This burning pain I feel this dark cloud in me, I do my best to relieve it.”
This sense of conflict continues in the lines, “The future is unknown. The past is so long gone. We're all so lost and chaos reigns” and the only solution is to “just let it all go up in smoke. Just let it all go, let your whole life burn.”
The narrator regrets thinking that he knew what would and wouldn’t work. As a consequence, “I fell so down and I hit the ground and it was so hard to get back up.” As the song ends, he realizes that he’s taken negative actions and sees the results. His reaction is to say, “This is a disaster, this wretched situation. I need to go forth and let the past die."
“Real Human Being”
“Real Human Being” starts out mixing the sound of rushing traffic and bass throb as if from a club. It begins to grow in volume, a rapid throbbing beat with a dancey quality to it touches the music as the saw-edged mid-volume synth comes in.
There’s a quality I like as the shifting, bouncing synths move along with the snarling growl of guitar. There’s also a high synth that sings into the music to contrast with the harder sounds under it while the beat drives on and energizes the track.
We live in a world that seeks to manipulate every aspect of our lives and pushes us into continuous competition with one another. This song explores the problems we face as a result. The song begins simply, “We fight for attention, we try to get to the top. We grind and hustle, we try to look so good.” Our narrator rejects being “bound to the network.” Instead, he wants to ”disconnect and feel more complete.”
Our narrator asks, “What will it take for you to treat me as human being?” in the chorus and follows up by explaining that as it stands, “They push our buttons so we dance and sway. The world keeps spinning soon we're left behind.”
The result of not being treated like a human being is that “life is so fickle now. We're all so replaceable.” He points out that, “we love the cage that we live in. This was no paradise and I don't believe in it.”
The City by the Sea is an album that takes no prisoners. It is an incisive examination of our social media saturated, anomie-filled culture that is slowly robbing people of humanity. Kizunaut is not afraid to challenge in his music and I like that about it. He has a vision that he wants to articulate and does so in a way that makes for interesting listening.
© 2020 Karl Magi