Music can often be directly rooted to one location – murky electronics belong to London nightbus rides; smoke-filled saxophone solos evoke images of dusky New York jazz bars – but there’s a lot to be said about music with a universal appeal, a kind which refuses to be pinned down to one specific time and place.
Paris-based multi-instrumentalist Vincent Fenton is a specialist in the latter. As FKJ, aka French Kiwi Juice, his loose and colourful arrangements could soundtrack anything: a house party in Hong Kong, a road trip through the Australian outback, a post-midnight walk alone across moonlit European streets. It’s all there on his 2017 self-titled debut album, which flits between fidgety electronics, smooth blues and pristine pop, all with the flick of a switch.
FKJ’s universal appeal goes a long way to explaining his current, impressive border-crossing rise. With every song on his debut racking up over a million Spotify plays, he’s sold out shows in Asia, Europe and the States, and his unique, spontaneity-first live delivery – frog-leaping between guitar, keys and sax – is capable of translating to both intimate and giant venues.
Fenton’s journey began as a teenager, where he started to compose songs in-between working as a sound engineer in a Tours, France cinema. Self-taught and self-starting, he learnt the ropes on countless instruments, before finding an early home on future-facing French collective / label Roche Musique.
2012 EP Time for a Change set a stall for slick, sophisticated, cinematic pop. But if this release got by on an anything-goes approach, 2017’s French Kiwi Juice goes even further, upping the ante on collaborations and a global mission. Filipina singer (((O))) guests on the serene ‘Skyline’, while the minimalistic ‘Lying Together’ samples LA rapper Domo Genesis. Throughout, there’s a sense that no idea, however ambitious, is dismissed out of hand by Fenton. And the title of the record’s closing track acts as something of a mantra for his work: ‘Why Are There Boundaries’.
With the debut turning heads worldwide and a follow-up in the works, the past year’s also seen FKJ perform live sessions with a couple of kindred spirits: South London producer Tom Misch, and sax-glued Virginia talent Masego – both of which have been viewed by millions. It makes sense that artists like FKJ and his collaborators are allowed to flourish more than ever. After all, music can be accessed in an instant from just about anywhere in the world. No back catalogue is untraceable, no matter how extensive the Discogs search. You can be influenced by just about anything, no matter what the country or musical era. Fenton’s music reflects this, shunning borders and restrictions with a constant eye for pushing things forward.