Nov 21, 2022
By Michelle Dalarossa
To listen to Kaya Wilkins’s music is to step into an abstract world of soft-spoken wit and casual experimentation. Over the past four years, Wilkins—better known as Norwegian-American artist and musician Okay Kaya—has quietly but consistently generated ardently imaginative works, from self-written and -produced albums to interdisciplinary art exhibitions and gallery shows. On her fourth full-length album, SAP, Wilkins weaves her ethereal and evocative sound into a lattice of textured compositions, probing questions of consciousness, ego, and the human-nature relationship in the process.
Like Wilkins’ previous releases, SAP is a mercurial work that oscillates between skeletal soundscapes and carefully layered production. Its songs are driven by patterns that loop and interlock, each component—from gurgling synths to overlapping vocals to dripping guitars—working self-sufficiently yet symbiotically to create arrangements that are both pliable and precise. Although Wilkins wrote, engineered, and produced the record alone, she enlisted guest performances from a varied repertoire of musicians and friends, including (but not limited to) deem spencer, Taja Cheek of L’Rain, and Adam Green of The Moldy Peaches. There are percussive drums that wax into surging strings, moody synths that fade into bubbling harps, but through all of its asymmetrical cadences and unpredictable instrumentation, the record remains anchored by Wilkins’s downy voice.
Over the course of the album, she uses the versatility of her voice in a multitude of ways, role-playing as fictional characters like the namesake of Dolly Parton’s Jolene in “Jolene From Her Own Perspective” and a mythical goddess in “Origin Story.” Above all, however, she deconstructs the idea of the self with lyrics like “Did you know/Without the ego/There is no narrative?” and “Even my subconscious is self-conscious,” only to reconstruct it in ever-cryptic metaphors like “I’m a sentient dumpling/Sapling, resin” and “Like a newborn building/I take up space.”
Wilkins’ murky lyrics may tip into puzzling opacity, and her commitment to sonic exploration can come at the risk of splintering the unity of the album as a whole, but her idiosyncrasy and inventiveness are what make her music as beguiling as it is. SAP proves once again that the enigma of Okay Kaya’s work remains enticing, in spite of—or perhaps precisely because of—its often unfathomable quality. (www.okay-kaya.com)
Author rating: 7/10
Rate this album
No ratings have been recorded yet.