The King’s Will – As The Power Fails | Album Review

Oxbridge law graduate turned poet, football pundit and all-round ideal dinner guest Musa Okwonga joins forces with composer, producer, artist and mathematician, Giles Hayter. These two renaissance men record under the name of The King’s Will, dubbing their sound ‘Poetronica.’ The regal appellation is in reference to Okwonga and Hayter’s animated alter egos, the Fool and the Vassal; devoted subjects of a once compassionate but now despotic and extravagant King.

Loosely based on King Lear, the monarch of the title is an allegory for a society in self-inflicted distress, not unlike our own. On their debut album As the Power Fails the King’s Will discuss challenges both global (climate change, the dangers of ‘group-think’, devious marketing ploys) and personal (resilience in the face of adversity, ill-fated romance, personal growth).

The conceptual connection to the Bard is most apt. Musa’s style oscillates between solemn introspection and the dramatic boom of a rousing Shakespearean monologue. Imagine Brian Blessed re-born as an ectomorphic Ugandan on an occasional ragga tip. Okwonga’s reverence for crisp RP diction is a refreshing change from the faux mid-Atlantic intonations that often plague the spoken word scene.

Musa’s accent is the kind many parents of second generation UK immigrants tirelessly encouraged us to maintain before secondary school teasing chipped away at our good enunciation, only for us to struggle to regain its prestige as adults. It’s the Queen’s (or the King’s?) English if you will. Meanwhile, Hayter’s faultless production journeys through the many manifestations of electronica whilst staying forever faithful to its late ’70s/early ‘80s provenance. It takes a little while for the ears to adjust to the curious fusion of the Fool and the Vassal’s apparently disparate styles. However once the initial strangeness of this sonic dichotomy passes, there’s much in the way of juicy intellectual titbits.

On ‘Persevere’ Okwonga commends his younger sister’s focus and discipline…

‘I have this sibling who puts the word ‘sister’ in ‘persistent’….half woman/half work ethic…
If I ever whinge and much this brother does, she advises me ‘Think Dyson; suck it up…’

‘Propaganda’ is a fun, irreverent deconstruction of our generation’s obsession with ‘rebranding’. It might be electro-pop-meets-RSC in execution but there’s a ragga-esque aggression to Musa’s delivery as is the case on the anti-xenophobia ‘Hundreds’. The influence of Caribbean rhythms is also evident on album highlight ‘Extremes’. Okwonga sounds understandably beleaguered as he muses on the (unbalanced) effects of Climate Change on both the developed and developing world and the former’s reluctance to face up to the reality of it….

‘Clouds swoop low like a crow over dead meat…
Days bring the North Pole, get dressed, three vests protecting my torso…
Now a tale of another extreme where a normal rainfall is a wet dream.
Overweight lakes, rivers and their estuaries splitting at their sides at a visit from the monsoon.
But there are no laughs as the villages are gone soon.
Refugees flee from this extreme; life’s unfair but they can’t call the referee…
A mis-match as we watch from the best seats….’

On the menacing ‘Robotica’ Okwonga mercilessly scrutinises his past life as a City solicitor, linking the monotony and routine of his former existence to the sheep mentality, aided and abetted by technophilia, that besets 21st century life:

‘I have become Robotica; swapped heart for SIM card of a Nokia.
Exchanged brain for photocopier, no original life just borrowing…
Living my life as follower, all of us; look at each town you’ll find a lot of us’

The self-mocking ‘Self-Improvement’ provides a bit of levity…

‘It’s all about self-improvement…not as a human being or anything as pretentious as that.
That’s the type of personal journey that only ever ends in twat…’

It’s a reflection of the tongue-in-cheek humour that tempers the weightiness of As the Power Fails. Bar one or two exceptions it’s not all heavy-handed, right-on pontificating. Giles and Musa wish to stimulate social awareness but don’t allow themselves to forget that the carrot can be just as effective as the stick.

The King’s Will – As The Power Fails
Released: May 9, 2011
Label: Cloud Chamber Records Limited
Buy: iTunes / Amazon