Before reading any further, please understand that this is not a point of the bat over the ballpark fence or any grandiose prediction, but it is the first instance of an artist stopping the major forces of an industry in its tracks in full view of the public in quite some time, if ever. For that reason alone, what has recently occurred
must be acknowledged. To have made such a barnstorming debut in less than a handful of tracks, is even more telling. A lesser known EP from an even lesser known trio, The Story is a lesson in how to fast track yourself to a chance at a Best New Artist Award. The EP’s rise may be even more fitting as the annual music and interactive media whirlwind that is SXSW picks up steam in Austin, Texas.
Anita Bias and twins Paris and Amber Strother are probably still reeling from the attention that their bite-sized release turned internet phenomenon has garnered in 140 characters or less, thanks to the peer-to-peer frenzy that is Twitter; a new media giant that lost it’s own training wheels when SXSW festival attendees tweeted the event live from Austin in 2007. The accolades being thrown at the Los Angeles based trio known simply as KING have been amazing to watch in real-time for anyone surfing through blogs and social networking sites with even a minute interest in the electro-pop grooves prevailing in music at present; a feat of interactivity detailed recently by LA Weekly.
While Twitter is its own example of how well the whisper down the lane effect can launch a marketable product, The Story seems to be a clearly established line of demarcation between the old model and a new wave of “getting on” in an industry where record deals are not what they used to be, and major labels will not come calling the way they once did. Though the fairytale is far from over for KING, their rise is probably a dream commonly held but rarely so easily realized by the average artist working the open mics and jam sessions of most local circuits. While the Internet is a major agent of change, what makes all the difference once the public gets their hands around something new is how good it actually is. Buzz will only carry you so far. What they have created is what will carry them further and because of The Story, their journey has become just that.
For the skeptics in the crowd who may look at the three-song tracklisting and scoff, consider that within hours major artists were beating down the door to get in touch with the ladies of KING; a euphoria-inducing event they responded to in-kind, as humbled as anyone could possibly be in fewer characters than it took to pen this sentence. One can only assume it must be difficult to muster the nerve to continue pinching yourself after you have already gone through at least three moments of painful disbelief at the sight of artists like Phonte Coleman, Questlove, and Erykah Badu flooding your timeline with compliments and what are more than likely the beginnings of some major collaborative inquiries.
In the midst of a musical evolution heavy on futuristic sounds and live musicianship combined with the standing folkways of black musical tradition, there are the present-day heavies, like Flying Lotus, Bilal, Georgia Anne Muldrow, and Madlib. Then there are the newcomers; KING the newest amongst them within recent weeks. All songs performed by Bias, Strother, and Strother, their vocal talents are an interesting mix; the twins’ sound similar in tone to that of KiKi Sheard and Yummy Bingham, while Bias’ performance carries a bit more girth and raspy finish. All songs produced by Paris Strother, a pianist who met Bias during her time at Berklee College of Music, their musical aesthetic falls in line with that of indy heavyweights, Georgia Anne Muldrow, J*Davey, and Muhsinah.
Beginning with the title track, “The Story” is reminiscent of the phrasing made familiar by androids in eighties movies and the musical hallmarks present across Erykah Badu’s body of work; enlightenment as other-worldly transcendence chief among them. The drums will remind you of the pattern made famous by Prince with “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker.” Paris Strother gives a usually elusive maturity to the upbeat future-shocked sounds normally employed by producers of the teen-seeking bubble gum jams crowding afternoon music video countdowns. The ladies as a vocal collective round out the effort with thoughtful lyrics that are much more spiritual in tone than the music might initially lead one to believe, as evinced on “Supernatural,” the second track with a clap-ready bass line and rolling drum track that stands out as nothing less than lead single material, if having a lead single on a three-track release is even appropriate. Paris beefs up this production with the addition of brass by Regiment Horns, a deadly weapon in their own right.
KING’s music is a direct descendent of the ascension heavy themes prevalent in the compositions of Sun-Ra and Parliament Funkadelic, with the ever-present synthesizer and fearless textural experimentation as tangible testament to the twins’ Minneapolis upbringing and the group’s current Los Angeles digs. Rounding out the EP is the dreamy “Hey,” a vocal display of choral harmonies and range that swings on a slow floating melody panning through varied effects. Every album needs a love song, and this is theirs. While the release ends quite abruptly the upside is that it lasts indefinitely on repeat, which is where it will undoubtedly land in many rotations, and rightfully so. The other plus is that this is not the last of the The Story, but more appropriately, a very compelling beginning.
Words by Karas Lamb