Kiran Leonard – The Bullingdon, Oxford 1/4/16. Published in May edition of Nightshift Magazine
Innovation is a much revered commodity in a music industry that often seems to be looking backwards, sideways, any way but forwards. Eleven minutes into Kiran Leonard’s opening track Pink Fruit, his guitarist picks up a violin and plays a haunting, gypsy-esque melody which sits above a chunky guitar riff in a strange and foreign time signature with a cow bell incorporated to keep the obscure rhythm. Only then is it safe to say that convention has left the building and that Kansas has gone bye-bye. Kiran Leonard, although just twenty, already has a plethora of material to his name, something of a child prodigy in many respects, and his latest offering Grapefruit continues to exhibit his ADD approach to song writing with so much cross pollination, it is truly the sluttiest, most depraved of all the honey bees.
Throughout Leonard’s abstract hour long séance, channelling Jeff Buckley and Frank Zappa in tandem, the technical quality of composition and musicianship is breathtaking and for that alone the evening was entertaining in a way that any spectacle where one is treated to top end musicians performing intricate and demanding pieces is to be marvelled at. The problem is, with so much happening in quick succession, the music becomes increasingly difficult to listen to and after a short while, with his playful attitude to style, time signature and tempo, the evening begins to feel a little like someone trying to explain string theory, Being John Malkovich and Urdu grammar to you simultaneously. As a result the brain, tired of grasping for something regular and coherent, reverts to default mode and begins looping the theme music to Jurassic Park. One might go as far to say that there is a certain self indulgence to Kiran Leonard’s work which is indicative of a young musician with a lot of ideas but no overall themes, as though Leonard is attempting to communicate by speaking in tongues, impossible for mere mortals to translate.
Kiran Leonard is undoubtedly one of our most pioneering, exciting new prospects and his career trajectory will be fascinating as he clearly exhibits the ability and imagination to do just about anything in the musical sphere. Trying to create music which touches multiple genres in a complex and intellectual way is something to be encouraged and commended but there does need to be a flat and sturdy thoroughfare which is his, and only his. Grapefruit is an apt title for a collection of songs with a sharp and acrid flavour which is in need of a sweetener to soften the bitter aftertaste.