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Robin Kester – This Is Not A Democracy

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Netherlands artist Robin Kester announces the release of her spellbinding debut mini album This Is Not A Democracy (released 11 September via AT EASE) and shares dreamy new single Cigarette Song featuring Conor O’Brien of Villagers on brass section. 

The collaboration arose following Robin Kester’s support of Villagers during their tour through the Netherlands and Belgium, later when recording her new album, she invited O’Brien to collaborate on Cigarette Song. As Kester explains: “I thought the sparse arrangement could benefit from just a little bit of extra magic and I thought that a minimalistic brass arrangement would be the perfect finishing touch.” 

Happy to oblige, O’Brien describes Robin Kester’s music as “Awakening in me a sense of placelessness; her voice embodying the interiority of that abstract figure, lost in the crowd, on an endless journey home. It is at once impressionistic, volatile and graceful but at its heart lies a quiet euphoria.”

It’s a perfect way to describe the seven songs on This Is Not A Democracy, created alongside producer Marien Dorleijn (of Dutch band Moss) in his studio set deep within a former psychiatric institution. The duo combined Kester’s gentle beguiling vocals with experimentations with retro guitars, vintage synthesizers and an antique vibraphonette. The result is a dreamy luscious production drawing inspiration from 70’s pop with touches of Sufjan Stevens’ enigmatic heartbreak lullabies, the chamber-pop of Cate Le Bon, the dreampop of Beach House, and the enveloping, ethereal and otherworldly beauty of Weyes Blood. 

On the beautifully hazy Cigarette SongKester lyrically tackles the  more personal matter of a broken marriage. Where elsewhere on This Is Not A Democracy more abstract concepts are presented, mirroring the album’s often majestic multi-instrumented and dream-like soundscapes, complemented by Kester’s bewitching vocals. Westworld (TV series) is cited as a heavy influence on the record, with both theorising on themes of freewill and self-determination (or the lack thereof), such as on the ethereal Empty Head. Elsewhere nightmares, escapism and shifting mental states are explored, the latter on  the ghostly Portals which sonically captures the feeling of a looming depression with its mysterious strings. Whilst on Sweat and Fright and Day Is Done, two sides of the same sleepless coin are explored, the synthesised melody of Sweat and Fright - which recalls the soulful psych-tinged electronica of Broadcast - is an ode to nightmares, and the kaleidoscopic Day Is Done is described by Kester as “a lullaby for insomniacs.” 

Robin Kester hails from Utrecht, Netherlands. In 2018 she released a series of singles and her debut ‘Peel The Skin’ EP. Her debut single Lost For A Day was included on Spotify’s Viral Chart and was named ‘Track of the Week’ in de Volkskrant (the Netherlands’ equivalent of The Guardian).  Appearances on high-profile TV and radio shows in the Netherlands  followed, including a session for TV show Vrije Geluiden, and interviews and sessions for the country’s lead radio shows Nooit Meer Slapen (Radio 1), 3voor12 Radio (3fm) and 2 Meter Sessions (NPO 2) Culminating in 2019, in Dutch journalist Gijsbert Kamer (Volkskrant, Radio 1) naming Kester a ‘Talent to Watch’. 

Throughout this period Kester was invited to support the likes of aforementioned Villagers, plus Bent Van Looy, Alela Diane, Laura Gibson, The Bony King of Nowhere and Hayley Heyndrickx on their Netherlands tours, as well as being invited to perform at leading Netherlands festivals such as Here Comes The Summer, Motel Mozaique and Tweetakt.

Earlier this year, Kester teased out two tracks from the forthcoming mini album This Is Not A DemocracyRemove and Delete which has had radio plays from Guy Garvey (BBC 6 Music) and found itself in American DJ and tastemaker Chris Douridas’ KCRW playlist, and Day Is Done which will feature in upcoming American indie film Press Play out later this year.