Kingsley Ibeneche calls it “soul music.” As a child dancing and singing in a Nigerian-American church community in Camden, NJ, Ibeneche was introduced to ritual music’s ancestral power. He sang for years in exaltation of that community. As an adolescent, secular spaces gave Ibeneche a chance to experiment with expressive body movement in inviting ways, culminating in formal training in dance at University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Today Ibeneche is an accomplished dance performer, having shared the stage with Travis Scott, James Blake, Halsey, and others on mainstream platforms like the Video Music Awards and Saturday Night Live. But no matter how meteoric he ascends as a dancer, Ibeneche feels limited on stage as a backup dancer. You have to listen to his voice (as on Realms EP) to understand why one medium is not enough for his expression.
Between dread and ecstasy, Ibeneche’s songwriting bares both fragility and prophetic weight. A delicate effortlessness emerges in the surprisingly restrained piano ballad ‘Loud.’ Other times, Ibeneche’s vocal figures dive and contort to describe things twisted, unsound, or downright haunting. Ibeneche wrote the songs on Realms EP during a time when he faced personal transformation after boundary transgressions in his most intimate relations. Seas of trust were shifting. To investigate the complexities of fidelity (to himself and others), Ibeneche composed these lyrics through the voices of different “egos,” each with a different worldview and skill set for facing down breaks and mendings of the heart. The resulting songwriting approaches intimacy like a prism refracts light. Everything is true and vivid.
Ibeneche postures each song on Realms like a space, a ‘realm’ in itself. Like a capsule or a moment, a realm in this case is like a space to enter or exit at your own will, as with teleportation or time travel. The EP stretches across psychogeographies of catastrophe and tragedy to realms of loyalty and reverence (lead single ‘Sanctuary,’ for example). Lyrics invite listeners to flex their own willingness to pass through thoughts and memories of what is sometimes the most inflexible, unthinking or cruel in life, as well as the joy and rapture of desire’s deepest depths.
Lee Clarke, longtime Ibeneche collaborator, co-crafted Realms EP as executive producer, responding to the songwriting’s multi-colored themes through imaginative, full spectrum sound design. Clarke taps regions of boom bap, free jazz, afrobeat, drone, and post-dubstep while also crossing their wires. Featured are vocalists Devin Farrell and Pontiac, saxophonist Jarrett Gilgore, and drummer/producer Kevin Ripley, who has worked on several of Ibeneche’s records as well as playing in his live band.
Writers encountering Ibeneche’s music comment on his arresting intimacy as a performer, the cryptic honesty of his lyrics, and the brave coherence of his work across durational and fixed media. Realms EP betrays a sense of just how much ambition Ibeneche intends to offer up at the bustling interstices of creative traditions from Ancient Greek tragedy and Elizabethan monologue to Nigerian high life, the D’Angelo diaspora, and so much more.
released February 15, 2019
Original music produced, written and recorded by Kingsley Ibeneche and Lee Clarke.
Lyrics and vocals by Kingsley Ibeneche
Mixed by Lee Clarke
Mastered by Ryan Schwabe
Artwork photographed by Marcus Branch
Kevin Ripley: drums on 1, 2, 3; additional production on 6
Jarrett Gilgore: saxophone on 1,3
Devin Farrell: vocals on 1,4
Shell Bellz: vocals on 1
Dina Baez: vocals on 1
Jason Law: voice on 2
Jasmine Cassell: vocals on 4
Devon Taylor: drums on 5
Pontiac: vocals on 6
Maya Simone: vocals on 6
Bennett Kuhn: sampler on 6