The Black Cultural Renaissance of cktrl and His Upcoming Release, Yield
Music4 Minutes Read

The Black Cultural Renaissance of cktrl and His Upcoming Release, Yield

September 8, 2022 Share

With a celestial composition of strings and minimalist vocals, Yield brings cktrl to the forefront of the London jazz scene with his upcoming release.

For will the feelings leave, cktrl plays the clarinet barefoot in an all-white outfit to the ambient sound of trickling water. His eyes are closed, every part of his being invested in his music — a devoted musician if we have ever seen one. This is the artist who cameoed in Beyoncé’s Black is King, has worked with Duval Timothy and is part of an aspiring network of emerging Black creatives in Britain.

This coming October, he’s releasing his latest EP, Yield.

cktrl sat amongst covered furniture with his instruments, dressed in all black and barefoot. Image courtesy of Ronan Mckenzie

The Latest EP: Yield

The angel-like vocals may only fade in at minute 1:47 but it takes barely a few seconds of listening to realise that cktrl‘s Yield is palpably celestial in composition, sound and execution. It’s the contemporaneity of the sound, paired with the ancient touches of Baroque and classical music which make the pieces sound both ancient and modern, complex yet minimal.

cktrl wants Yield, a title which arose from a time of deep personal introspection as a fruit of grief and heartbreak, to be listened to as meditations and moments of self reflection. As a concept, cktrl explains it sometimes came down to the very meaning of the word. “Some people who I’ve asked to define the word ‘yield’ have looked at it from a harvest point of view, whereas others have seen it as something to submit to, to render, like you’re giving up yourself.“ For him, however, it takes on a slightly different meaning. ”I see it as a barometer for how you feel – no matter if you’re at your lowest or your highest vibration, you still need to show up for yourself. You still have to be present. It’s about getting the best from yourself no matter where you are in life”

cktrl photographed topless with his instrument. Image courtesy of Ronan Mckenzie

Yield breaks in with a stark contrast between the latest we had heard from the south-east London artist. Zero, his previous EP, tuned into an electronic sound paired with velvet-smooth vocals by Mereba, speaking to the intense experience of a love which is taken away. Whilst Zero was layered and complex, Yield hones an instrumental purity which cktrl has often portrayed in his music videos.

In terms of its sonic identity, cktrl has expressed his desire to innovate. “I want to be able to show that you can make things from scratch again that have that feeling and beauty without having to sample an old record. Even though that’s an art-form within itself, I want to show raw orchestration and instrumentation can be the sole source”

Raw, in fact, is also the imagery that cktrl is putting out there alongside his music. He is photographed topless, or dressed in monochrome and sat barefoot amidst a nude-coloured backdrop. There’s a visual elegance and a nudge to the classic that comes from these photographs, but paired with an honesty that comes from the rawness of him being barefoot. Like his music, his visuals feel both historical and modern. In one photograph in particular, the London musician is photographed amidst wrapped up furniture, perhaps a hint of the artists creative transition or desire to compose new and innovative works but still conscious and aware of what precedes him.

cktrl photographed topless with his instrument. Image courtesy of Ronan Mckenzie

The Black Cultural Renaissance

2015 was the year that cktrl arguably hit the limelight. With the release of Forest, a 5 track EP with vertiginous synth pads, the south-east Londoner earned the approval of Jamie xx and Sampha. It was also around that time that cktrl began feeling uncomfortable with the monetisation and gentrification of Black art. In disillusionment, cktrl moved away from the Boiler Room London scene, instead experimenting with music that delved into a range of genres and starting his own label, Songs 4 Girls.

Miller has also expressed his desire to uproot the very core of musical education. In 2021 he spoke to Crack: “Growing up you was playing some dead white man’s rhythm rather than someone that looks like you. Although some of the pieces are obviously beautiful, I couldn’t relate.” In response, he hopes kids someday study musicians such as himself in the curriculum.

Throughout his success, cktrl is a name that has started popping alongside other talented Black creatives, such as Virgil Abloh, Bianca Saunders, Tremaine Emory, Nicholas Daley, Ahluwalia (whom DDW has previously spoken about), Stephen Isaac Wilson and Jenn Nkiru.

The Lewisham Music Scene

Lewisham, a hub of musical talent and emerging soundscapes, is home to cktrl. He has previously worked hand-in-hand with Touching Bass, a community and label of creatives which have collaborated with like-minded musicians that are shaping a revolution of British talent. Lewisham is the heart of where it is all happening right now, with artists like Greentea Peng, Mica Levi or Wu-Lu all shaping themselves amongst a community looking to evolve the music scene.

cktrl photographed playing the clarinet. Image courtesy of Ronan Mckenzie

It is within this music scene that we draw parallels from cktrl’s Yield and Nala Sinephro‘s Space 1.8, an album also associated with Touching Bass which revelled in success. Through its spiritual jazz sounds, Sinephro’s use of bird ambiance and forest sounds feel similar to the compositions of cktrl’s works, although the latter experiments further with strings as well as classical and baroque influences.

Yield will be released on the 28th of October.

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Author: Laura Scalco
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