Kiran Leonard – Grapefruit (Moshi Moshi)

Taking a fresh segment of Jeff Buckley’s work to frequently gorgeous effect

Released Mar 25th, 2016 via Moshi Moshi / By Ian Stanley
Kiran Leonard – Grapefruit (Moshi Moshi) Three years on from Kiran Leonard’s last album you would think he would almost be touching 30 by now, but no. He’s 20. And is attending Oxford University to do some of that studying stuff in Spanish and Portuguese. Taking time out to record this album – he’s been slowly working on this one since the release of the very well received Bowler Hat Soup - Leonard hits upon a more refined sound drawing on an ever-increasing litany of influences from Buckley to Beefheart.

Upon the announcement that Grapefruit was to be released Leonard commanded sold out tours in January 2016. Looking back at his first album and his performance as a 17 year old on BBC Introducing, it’s easy to see the attraction of his energetic live performances. Having followed that with a tour up and down the country in some tiny venues – some like the Hare and Hounds in Birmingham (no shoes, odd socks and a hell of a lot of noodling) – he’s been able to grow and mature taking on more of the grandiose guitar that he’s clearly wanted to play.

Sometimes it can be beguiling watching his hands move across the fretboard and to some measure the riffs reach to the complexity of a mathematics equation; layers wrapped over fingers and strings twisted into Argonauts then pushed towards others all in a feat that creates sound like in ‘Secret Police’. Then there are trumpets spitting and lunging like in ‘Pink Fruit’. His voice adds to the sediment of songs, sometimes aspiring to be Jeff Buckley, sometimes giving way to radio samples remind of David Thomas Broughton or Chad VanGaalen then exploding tonsils like Captain Beefheart. Or bleeting alongside a female vocal in ‘Fireplace’.

As the song length increases so does the ambition, ‘Pink Fruit’ is sixteen minutes in length and forever changing while ‘Fireplace’ the album closer is ten. And it doesn’t let up its meanderings through a love story until the time is up. Pleasantly, Leonard trades vocals between himself and a female voice. Her vocals are backed up sweetly by smooth piano and violin. When Leonard’s vocal enters, those same instruments become a discombobulated and terrible unit. Like a drunk, stoned band egged on by a lead pole.

It’s not all lengthy though. A short, half-song in ‘Secret Police’ shows that all you need is just one crescendo now and again. But if you do it just once, make sure there’s a good wave of sound that happens at the end.

Influenced by everything from Deerhoof to Modest Mouse, to Jeff Buckley to Nietzsche to any number of other literary figures, Leonard is clearly a musician of vast ambition. And with that vast ambition there is a vast amount of layers and dedication to his music. Turn one way you’ve got the lyrics, the other guitar peddling at a furious pace in a direction that is sometimes challenging, sometime ungraspable. Grapefruit is an album which will be open to many interpretations, but that will never stop its gorgeous moments shining through.