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Kiran Leonard Reaches Cacophonous Bliss on ‘Secret Police’

The first single off of twenty-year-old Kiran Leonard’s upcoming album, Grapefruit, is 16 minutes long — and the second is no less ambitious. On “Secret Police,” the Manchester-born songsmith channels the totemic singer-songwriters that came before him — Rufus Wainwright III, Jeff Buckley, Leonard Cohen — with a voice that trembles as if it’s about to rupture from the weight of his tortured artistry. The song is gorgeously arranged, as well: Starting off with a simple piano figure, Leonard gradually drops in light snares and violins until he builds to an ear-splintering instrumental cacophony worthy of ELO. Read what he has to say about the track:

A few years ago Andrew Graham-Dixon did a well good television series on Russian art. It was called “The Art of Russia”. I wanted to revisit it but the damn BBC Four is sitting on it (whack that shit on iPlayer m8 c’mon). One of the episodes focused on the first half of the 20th century and art under Stalin, as well as techniques used by a number of artists at that time to subvert his (you can imagine) somewhat myopic constraints on what was acceptable Soviet art: lots of pretty blonde women harvesting wheat and lots of portraits of Stalin, basically. And Andrew Graham-Dixon, so he’s looking at this one, and I forget (and am unable to verify) whether it was a painting of lots of pretty blonde women harvesting wheat or just a portrait of Stalin, but anyway it was a landscape painting, and these rows of fields in the background and on the face of it a very idyllic pro-regime work, but way off in the distance, to the left, there’s an ominous little smudge of a secret service car…

It’s an image that has stuck with me: this sinister, ceaseless, all-seeing presence that was always there, especially if you were a painter. And you were within its reach whether you were at home, or with someone else in another town, or on your own another part of the world. And anything that pervasive becomes a part of the natural world around you; you must be able to hear its presence in the wind, and see it in every face that passes you by in the street, and it must have stayed with you long after it had actually gone away, and nobody was intelligent enough, or noble enough, or right enough to escape it… God damnit I wish I could remember that painting’s name. If there’s anyone reading this who majored in Eastern European Art or just really like Andrew Graham-Dixon or something please drop us an e-mail, [email protected], it’s killing me. And shout outs to Ilya Repin.

He also discussed the influences on “Secret Police.”

alvarius b; daniel johnston; my mother’s telephone in the 1980s; the guitar playing in sufjan stevens’ “djohariah”; a silver mt zion and all those beautiful beautiful voices; not the nsa (this song is super wrinkly old and it pre-dates that scoop); thom yorke’s piano playing; being part of a family; jesús galíndez; iranian general election, 2009; randy newman; emil cioran; mario vargas llosa; shameless grandiosity; trees in the dark; over-exposure to adam curtis documentaries in the dark; being afraid in the dark when you’re a grown-up; being a grown-up and wanting to be a tree instead; want; fear; feeling small; in open spaces;

Listen here, find Leonard’s list of upcoming tour dates below, and pre-order Grapefruit before its March 25 release date via Moshi Moshi Records.

Kiran Leonard tour dates:
March 24 – Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Social
March 25 – York, UK @ Fulford Arms
March 26 – Stockton, UK @ Georgian Theatre (Stockton Calling)
March 27 – Newcastle, UK @ Cumberland Arms
March 28 – Edinburgh, UK @ Electric Circus
March 30 – Manchester, UK @ Soup Kitchen
March 31 – Birmingham, UK @ Hare & Hounds
April 01 – Oxford, UK @ Bullingdon
April 02 – Bath, UK @ The Nest
April 04 – London, UK @ The Lexington
April 05 – Ramsgate, UK @ Music Hall
April 06 – Cambridge, UK @ Portland Arms
April 07 – Nottingham, UK @ Bodega T
April 09 – Cardiff, UK @ DimSŵn