Rating: NNNNNin the few short months since Montreal keyboard freak David Kakon, aka mellow groove boss Jaffa, released his easygoing.
in the few short months since Montreal keyboard freak David Kakon, aka mellow groove boss Jaffa, released his easygoing Elevator debut, some very good things have happened.The chilled-out disc, put together over a few years in Kakon’s studio with the keyboardist playing virtually all the instruments, has got the nod from new-groove tastemakers Jazzanova, Gilles Peterson and Rainer Truby, entered near the peak of European club charts and already scored remixes from respected DJ crews like the Herbaliser and Masters at Work.
The appeal is obvious. Elevator’s blend of slinky beats, Billie Holiday samples, crank phone calls and massive, roiling keyboard riffs plinked out on Kakon’s arsenal of analog organs comes off like an even more unobtrusive Air. It’s background music that can also command your complete attention.
Not too shabby for a record that its creator insists was an accident, something to take his mind off real life – in Kakon’s case, a punishing degree in mathematics.
“When I tell people how easy it was to make this record, they think I’m just being a jerk, but it’s true,” Kakon laughs from his Montreal studio. “The four years I spent in mathematics allowed me to build this studio and fine-tune my skills as a musician and a producer. The idea was that when my degree was finished, I would be ready to go.”
Kakon is reluctant to say whether there’s a relationship between pure mathematics and lazy, abstract beats, but the days of brain-scrambling number crunching clearly had their effect when he slipped behind the keys.
“I spent so much time studying science that at the end of the day I just wanted to do the complete opposite,” he admits. “In this case, that meant a lazy, mellow groove. I wanted something that would let me detach myself from school.
“Everything’s related to math – it’s the language of nature. Painting is just vectors, and architecture is science. So math and my music aren’t related, but in a way they’re totally related.”
If you believe Kakon, though, negotiating a tricky bit of algebra was a lot more difficult than scoring remixes from some of the hottest producers on the planet. Nothing in Kakon’s analogue world seems to have been that challenging, which isn’t to say that Elevator is a lazy or half-baked album.
Instead, the 24-year-old Kakon is driven by a supreme sense of confidence in himself and his music. If taken the wrong way, it could border on arrogance, but it’s clearly working.
“When you want it, you can get it,” he declares. “There’s always a way. I wanted a Masters at Work remix, and we got it. It’s that simple.
“Of course, it’s a huge deal to have them work on my track. My manager compares it to Marvin Gaye calling to say he wants to babysit your kid. I’m not surprised, though. What I do comes from a real and honest place, and you can’t really say no to that. Sure, I’m lucky, but I also think this record is really good. Is it arrogant to admit that? I don’t think so.” JAFFA with DJ JOHN KONG, at the Rivoli (332 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, December 7). $5-$10. 596-1908.