The exponential, international rise of Perth’s own Kito
Since helping define a new generation of electronica/pop as one-half of Kito & Reija Lee, the producer is now becoming world-adored.
To many, Kito is hardly a new name. At the turn of the last decade, the Perth-raised musician was at the forefront of a homegrown rise of new generation electro-pop, largely as one-half of Kito & Reija Lee with, you guessed it, fellow Perth-based musician Reija Lee.
Together, the duo were at the forefront of something incredibly exciting. In the five years or so they were active, Kito & Reija Lee were synonymous with a promising new era for Perth’s music scene, whether it be as themselves - they released two records, 2011’s break-out Sweet Talk EP and 2014’s II EP, the latter featuring Zebra Katz and an early Shockone remix - or as guest features, present heavily in the drum’n’bass / breaks world through collaborations with Noisia, for example. In a lot of ways, Kito & Reija Lee felt like an unexplored future; a new pathway that felt incredibly exciting coming from a local duo with two people long notorious in West Australian electronica for their previous work.
For the most part, Kito & Reija Lee - as a duo project - has been quiet since 2015. However, you shouldn’t be too surprised to hear that they’ve both blossomed on their own terms over the last few years since, with both Kito and Reija Lee - apart from one another, this time - emerging as fully-fledged, exciting solo musicians off the back of their own work. Despite taking on two very different and distinct sounds, the backbone of their past still feels present in everything they do; their status as two musicians of the cusp of potential brilliance not disappearing now that they’re apart.
We’ve spoken about Reija Lee a few times over the years since the collaborative partnership’s end, both as a keen guest collaborator furthering her footprint in the heavier dance music sub-genres - her collaborative discography includes work with Zeds Dead, Ekko & Sidetrack, Metrik, Shockone, T.I. (alongside Ludacris and Big Boi, interestingly enough) and so on - and with her own work, which as we’ve found over the years, moves with his kind-of nostalgic, 80s electro-pop sway that’s managed to floor us a couple of times.
However, now it seems that Kito’s time to arrive. Over the last two years, it’s become clear that Kito isn’t someone representative of just Australia’s pop future, but as someone now with a global footprint demanding attention. Now based in Los Angeles after a short stint in London, Kito has blossomed into one of electronic’s most prevalent and consistently brilliant musicians behind-the-scenes, becoming an in-demand collaborator working with Jorja Smith, Icona Pop, Mabel, BANKS and Ruel as a producer and songwriter. She’s also been taken under the wing of someone of electronic’s most influential and present producers - the UK’s Hudson Mohawke, for example - to further her craft, something that really shines with the uptick in work quality throughout the last few years.
Kito’s debut solo EP - 2018’s HAANI - was one of the year’s most under-rated electronic cuts; a dizzying six tracks that introduce Kito as a well-rounded, multi-faceted musician on her own terms. It included tracks that really showcased Kito’s versatility across a string of sounds, ushering her forward as someone that can take ahold of any sound, make it her own, and master it. Songs such as Ego and the Broods-assisted Creature Kind saw her move into a more pop-centric sphere (the former being a solo entrance that really doubles down on Kito’s strengths as a solo musician), while the Hudson Mohawke-assisted Pamplemousse flexed experimentalism and production prowess, helping Kito find her groove - or lack thereof, genre-wise - and launch herself forward.
However, the time since has shown Kito’s craft more than ever. Wild Girl, which released at the tail-end of last year, enlisted Empress Of for a big-name collaboration that came with her signing to US electronic mega-label Astralwerks, while the time since has been nothing but consistent, teaming up with AlunaGeorge Alone With You earlier this year and then, just last week, ZHU and Jeremih (!) for Follow. They’re all tracks vastly different to one another but connected in their creativity and sheen, held down by Kito’s ability to pluck the best out of her collaborators, even when it comes to musicians like AlunaGeorge and Jeremih - two keen, consistent collaborators who you would think would have their best already out there.
In everything she does, it becomes clear that Kito is synonymous with a future of electronica - and its many genristic combinations - that isn’t scared to move between textures and sounds; someone who is capable of grappling with experimentalism and use it to their advantage to craft a genre-fleeting future. She’s able to do anything; able to move beyond the trends to carve her own, and that’s a remarkably difficult thing to find in a musician - and a sure sign that the artist in question is going to be something special.
Kito is the future, and we couldn’t be more proud knowing that a small slice of tomorrow comes from Perth.
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