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"Seven Years Bad Luck Review"

After flirting with the Chapel Hill music scene for a month as a drummer, Michael O’Shea embarked on an intense musical retreat in his Appalachian hometown, emerging in early 2008 as a multi-faceted one-man band by the name of Kinjac. Now the philosophy-student-cum-musician follows his interactive debut full-length, The Upside of Down, with a politically charged second helping: Seven Years Bad Luck. On this album – which was written, recorded, produced and mastered in only a single month – the multi-instrumental musician frames not-so-distant U.S. politics with uncomplicated melodies, aggressive live instrumentation and dense layers of varied electronic accentuation.

With opener, “The Fall,” the album dives headlong into an exciting textural landscape of edgy rock, digitized percussion and tinny synths. O’Shea rhythmically chants, “You can think what you want but it doesn’t change the facts of the matter/The only fact of what’s the matter with you/You seem to think in terms of false and true,” with an electronically-altered, dirt-tinged irreverence reminiscent of Lo Fidelity All-Stars. O’Shea’s vocals return like an unhinged cabaret singer filtered through an old telephone on “Terror.” To this he adds a contrapunto of strings that transition into bottom-heavy bass, trip-hop percussion and the album’s lifeblood, raw electric guitar. “Breaking Mirrors” follows a similar trajectory, moving from one industrial synth aggressor to the next, pulling back occasionally, and then pouring forth with slashing intensity, only to arrive at an unexpected jazz conclusion.

The album culminates with “[Wake Up America],” in which a passionate political speech criticizing economic decisions plays uninterrupted over anxious, warbling synths and rumbling, stripped-down drums. When the speaker cries, ‘Up with wages!” the music rises chaotically along with him. It’s hard to miss the message inherent in Kinjac’s beat-saturated guitar reverb and fuzzy synthesized angst.

-Lulu McAllister - Performer Magazine

"Seven Years Bad Luck Pre-release Review"

Truth be told, I'm not exactly the biggest fan of — here's the old fogey coming out — "electronic" music. I hear bleeps and bloops, repetitive motifs that are often harmonically half baked and build and build into mostly nothing, and as far as lyrical content is concerned- what lyrical content? Now, my point of reference is a little limited, because if you genuinely dislike something, you're really not going to pursue much of it. I hate brussel sprouts, had a bad experience as a child with them, and thus never ate them again. So I'm not the prime candidate to ask for advice on brussels sprouts. Or electronic music.

That being said, musician/photographer/writer Michael O'Shea's Kinjac project hasn't left my CD player since he dropped off an advance copy. 7 Years Bad Luck is a rare combo of ultra tweaked samples, live drums and bass, distorted vocals and sometimes hyper politically charged intent that initially left me scratching my head before fumbling for the "play" button again... and again. It's not often that a disc comes along (especially one from a genre of music I typically avoid) that leaves me as dumbfounded as this one has. Of course to anyone more familiar with the style than I, the influences and points of reference are most likely obvious. But to my "guitar/bass/drum/keys/vocal" oriented ears, this stuff sounds intriguingly and almost uncomfortably different.

"The Fall" builds for three minutes before the vocals kick in. It's that whole "going somewhere" thing again — and go somewhere it does. Structurally, it's a pretty interesting trick; save the verse for the last minute of the song. Thematically, this is fairly dark stuff as well. Many tunes seem like studies on finding hope among an immense lack thereof, with verses and choruses tangled upon themselves until really, they're neither. Repetition is used for impact, melodic ideas are shifted and twisted each time they come around again — on the one hand, this is pretty confusing stuff for the "pop" trained ears. On the other, that's likely why it works as well as it does.

And in the "creepy aural nightmares" corner, we have a disorienting chromatic accordion melody fighting with fuzzed out drum'n'bass on the appropriately titled "Terror." The sequencing of the tracks on 7 Years Bad Luck is crafty as well, where one song starts and another stops is often a mystery; long instrumental sections give way to sudden bursts of noise, then part of a verse, then everything goes haywire again. "I Walk" operates on such a principle- you think you know what's happening for minute or so, then you're wondering if it's still the same song. A cut that's sure to stand out is O'Shea's sampling of Dennis Kucinich's fierce "Wake Up America" speech into the album's closing track, which is preceded by an ominous instrumental track cleverly entitled "Optimism."

Let's make it clear that Michael O'Shea is this whole project. Every knob that was turned, string plucked (or beaten into submission), microphone placed, vocal delivered; every bit of recording and mastering was done in a modest home studio by O'Shea. And the quality of production made one of the rarest of occurrences happen: while spinning 7 Years Bad Luck at work, a customer stopped in the middle of the store, stared at the speakers, and asked me with widened eyes "What are we listening to?" This wasn't a new major label release. This is, frankly, pretty challenging stuff. By a local musician. The look on that customer's face something akin to having been hit by a truck, and really liked it.

If this is any indication of what's to come on the local music scene for the New Year, consider me inspired. Release date for 7 Years Bad Luck is Jan. 20 — yes folks, Inauguration Day. I'd strongly recommend seeking this one out.

--Chris Cooper
- Smoky Mountain News


"Whereof/Thereof" (K_008_EP, 12/12/2010)
"No. 7" (K_007_LP, 11/11/2010)
"Psychology" (K_006_LP, 10/10/2010)
"The Breakup" (K_005_EP, 8/8/2010)
"The Crackup" (K_004_EP, 7/7/2010)
"Seven Addenda" (K_003_EP, 7/7/2009)
"Seven Years Bad Luck" (K_002_LP, 1/20/2009)
"The Upside Of Down" (K_001_LP, 5/1/2008)



Kinjac is not a normal person. Born and raised in the liberal mountain-town of Asheville, NC to a new age minister and a musician, the multi-instrumentalist, producer, visual artist and writer is prone to psychological eccentricities. Halfheartedly convinced he is the reincarnation of Wassily Kandinsky, he approaches his visual-medium-of-choice of photography from an abstract perspective. And a pronounced case of synesthesia means he thinks of sound visually and produces his music based on the color and composition of the sounds as much as from traditional perspectives. So in order to satisfy his OCD control issues he does all production on all of his music, from recording to final mastering, in true DIY fashion.

He often laments that he has the heart of a 1920s modernist, but his anxiety-riddled mind is the poster-child for the postmodern predicament. After finishing the thesis for his honors philosophy degree on the pluralistic ethics of post-structuralist language philosopher Jaques Derrida, he finished the album Psychology and was at an utter lack for what to do next. Beginning with a synchronistic facebook friend request accident via a mutual Swedish friend while he was living in Scotland, several months of exchanging daily long digital letters with a Swedish girl he’d never met in person finally culminated in myriad signs bordering on the mystic convincing them they needed to meet in person. So at the Newark international arrivals terminal he met the girl whom he was already in love with and decided to sell most of his possessions that wouldn’t fit on a plane (save his drum set) and go live with her in Sweden.

Earlier this year he started the Solotechne record label, audio production studio and digital publishing house with his good friend Toaster Bath. He’s been spending the summer in Stockholm working on his seventh album, aptly named No. 7. He’s also been working on an EP called Transatlantic, a remix project and an album of instrumental versions of his music. Constantly harassed by a morbid preoccupation with his own death, the 22-year-old is driven to try and maximize his short time on earth, leading to a rather prolific creative output helped by workaholic tendencies, coffee and the fact that he stays up until dawn more often than not.

His music is “a rare combo of ultra tweaked samples, live drums and bass, distorted vocals...that initially left me scratching my head before fumbling for the play button again... and again” (Smoky Mountain News). Blending minimalistic melodies and a din of digitized percussion "with an electronically-altered, dirt-tinged irreverence” (Performer Magazine), Kinjac is a truly unique solo project. Percussive-based with vocal stylings "like an unhinged cabaret singer" (Performer Magazine), it is a post-industrial electro-rock influenced synthesis of the digital and organic with dashes of hip-hop, electronica, afrobeat and just about everything else. The music features tight songwriting and lyrical substance, often with a political bent. Despite the eclectic mix of its influences it resists the urge to be experimental for experimentation's sake and is surprisingly listenable and accessible.

One part one-man-band and one part DJ show, Kinjac live is strange phenomenon befitting his music. The multi-instrumentalist flows back and forth between singing and playing bass (with an often radically altered sound) and playing drum set, all on-top of the densely layered sonic backdrop of his productions that he licentiously mixes and manipulates live to create an eclectic and danceable wall of sound.

Kinjac has shared the stage with names like Saul Williams, Thavius Beck, K-the-I???, CJ Boyd and O’Death, as well as having spent most of last year touring the eastern half of the US playing drum set for an afrobeat band called Afromotive. As a producer he has worked with artists such as Eprhyme, C.J. Boyd and Ali Baba’s Tahini (Umphrey’s McGee side project), as well as handling all production for Solotechne Studios and Solotechne Records.