Paul Chelmis

Thomas Kenney, a veteran of several high-energy local musical acts, is setting off on his own with a sampling-based, world music-inspired instrumental project known as Oukuo. His latest endeavor’s debut EP, Gorilla, is out Aug. 7.

“I’ve always wanted to do a solo project,” Kenney said. “When you’re in a project like Doom Flamingo or Terraphonics it’s more of a sum of everyone’s personalities. With this I wanted to have an idea and be able to work on it and let my personality and experiences come to the forefront.”

His ideas for Oukuo and Gorilla, are built on a bedrock of sampling, but not in the way that people probably assume. Instead of taking from other recordings, Kenney fills in the world of Oukuo with original performances by some of his musician friends. He then tinkers with their tracks in the studio to create the electronic, “tropicalia dancefloor” sound that populates Gorilla.

“I approach it like a hip-hop producer,” he said. “So all of the drums on Gorilla are Shelton Dessausure playing based on compositions that I wrote and then I sampled his playing.”

“My friend Zach Douglas plays horns on ‘Welcome to Oukuo’ and I resampled it to sound like a full horn section. I’m composing all of the songs instead of starting with someone else’s musical idea.”

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Like the way he uses sampling, Kenney’s influences on Oukuo are not what folks would immediately anticipate from a project like this. Kenney cites his international travels as the root of Gorilla, more than any musical artist.

“When I travel I’m not just looking for music but the whole sonic landscape of a place,” he said. “I mostly play R&B, hip-hop and jazz and that sort of has to come out in the music that I produce. But in this you’ll hear polyrhythmic stuff and African horn influences as well.”

Kenney recommends that, along with the EP, listeners check out the two music videos that have been made by Dylan Dawkins of Persona La Ave. “He’s a great visual artist and kind of a collage master and the music is very collage based,” says Kenney. The approaches to the videos and Kenney’s process of making the EP have a clear aesthetic link, and for anyone who enjoys that “collage” oriented approach to music, Gorilla is a must listen. —