Album Premiere: Adult Karate’s Debut Is a Dark Dance Down ‘Del Mar’

Adult Karate © 2018
Dwelling in both emotional and sonic darkness, Adult Karate’s debut album ‘Del Mar’ is an intimate and cathartic journey through addiction, depression, and recovery.

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Adult Karate’s expansive experimental pop music defies traditional genre-based classification; his output ranges in influence and style, encompassing pop, dance, electronic, new wave, post-rock, and more in a conscious effort to remain forever out-of-the-box. But keeping things fresh doesn’t mean Adult Karate sounds scattered all over the place – in fact, quite the contrary. Del Mar, the artist’s long-awaited debut album, is an intimate and moving journey through addiction, depression, and recovery that dwells in both emotional and sonic darkness.

I woke up
the cold, clay visionaries worked for nothing
it’s all your head
you barter bits of yourself to fill your blood and veins
with the search for something
as if you ever had a chance, oh no
– “Del Mar,” Adult Karate
Del Mar - Adult Karate

Del Mar – Adult Karate

Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering Adult Karate’s debut album Del Mar, officially out August 3, 2018 via Plug Research. The moniker for Los Angeles-based producer, singer, and songwriter K.C. Maloney, Adult Karate has emerged in the past few years as a true entity unto itself – an artistry that moves to the beat of its own drum, both figuratively and literally. Del Mar is the apotheosis of Adult Karate’s first chapter, finding the artist pouring himself out in song as he dives into his deepest, darkest, and most sacred places.

“At its core, Del Mar the album and “Del Mar” the song are both about my struggles with addiction and depression,” K.C. Maloney tells Atwood Magazine. While he did not intend for his debut to become a concept album, Del Mar inevitably presents itself as a poignant struggle through vice and our innermost demons. Reflective lyrics play off moody, brooding music to set a somber tone that permeates throughout.

While it is certainly worth noting each song for its own special place on Del Mar, this record is undoubtedly best listened to as a whole. Tracks as disparate as the bubbling opener “Del Mar” (featuring Adaline’s beautiful, breathtaking vocals) and the far darker “This Night” flow perfectly into one another. Not only does this showcase Adult Karate’s ability to find commonalities throughout wide-ranging music and exploit them to everyone’s benefit, but it also speaks to our universal, personal search for peace amidst the chaos – whether it’s around us, or in our own heads.

Del Mar may not be a joyous record, but it does have a silver lining: In opening up about his past with heroin, and the long journey toward sobriety – an endeavor that encompasses sexuality, guilt, doubt, and more – Adult Karate has forever created a soundtrack to help others going through similar issues. Furthermore, Del Mar speaks to choosing life over loss: Of healing and rehabilitating when life hangs in the balance.

Trouble will find each of us, some way and somehow. Thanks to Adult Karate, we have an entire album dedicated to the feelings we incur while wrestling that darkeness. Nothing about these themes is easy, but they’re meaningful, powerful, and well worth the listen. Experience the full record via our exclusive stream, and peek inside Adult Karate’s Del Mar with Atwood Magazine as K.C. Maloney provides his personal take on the music and lyrics of his debut album!

Listen: Del Mar – Adult Karate

:: Inside Del Mar ::

Del Mar - Adult Karate

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Del Mar (ft. Adaline) 

At its core, “Del Mar” the album and “Del Mar” the song are both about my struggles with addiction and depression. The lyrics are definitely culled from experiences I had as a junkie, spending almost all my time on getting enough money to support my daily habit. I did a lot of messed up stuff that I’m not proud of which created a sometimes overwhelming sense of guilt. This guilt, combined with my pre-existing issues with depression, made me suicidal more often than not. I would just think to myself how much easier it would be on me and everyone around me if I just died. So Adaline’s beautiful chorus is speaking as the warm voice of death, beckoning me to just let this mortal life go and come with her into the peace of non-existence. It was a very therapeutic experience to write and record this song because I see it as my gesture of gratitude that I have been able to get sober and work through a lot of those issues I was dealing with. Today I am a genuinely happy person most of the time but I NEVER want to forget my struggle and where I came from. I think the lyrics for the song accurately describe the hopelessness I experienced back then but the upbeat and hopeful sound of the music communicate the upbeat and hopeful mood that I feel today. My hope is that I can help people struggling with addiction and depression realize that it does not need to be a permanent condition. You can improve your life, it just takes some work.

This Night

“This Night” began as an experiment with drum and bass music. I wanted to see if I could write a somber pop song using the classic ingredients of drum and bass, like the Amen drum break sample and a punchy sub-bass. But as it developed, it turned into something else. I added guitars and some analog synths and it started to sound more like a jungle/new wave mutation, which turned it into something more interesting than I had planned. I wrote the lyrics after I had read a story on Reddit about a severely fractured familial relationship. It got me thinking about how someone can be so changed and effected by a traumatic incident without even being consciously aware of it. I think almost everyone, with the perspective of time, has looked back on their life and realized how fucked up they were over something that happened years and years before. So I tried to put that feeling into a song. 

Keep Watch

This started out as an homage to all those wonderful, sad new wave pop songs of the 80’s. It’s a classic progression of chords and shiny guitar sounds set to some pretty dark lyrics. The song is about the paranoia of modern day life due to things like the complete saturation of social media in our daily lives, 24 hour news cycles, and the constant fear of violence and disease. Years ago, when I was an active addict, I would use this paranoia and fear as a sort of excuse to keep using. Luckily, I now realize all the bullshit was just in my head and it is up to me to decide how I want to feel about the world and my life.

Find Me

I love ambient music and I love minimal piano music. Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved the emotion and imagery that such simple soundscapes are capable of conjuring. I wrote and recorded the main ideas for this using a tiny travel midi keyboard connected to my laptop while my husband and I were visiting his mom on the east coast last Fall. They had all went to bed and I stayed up for a few hours, sitting alone on a stool in the darkened and quiet kitchen and pieced this together with piano and samples stretched by 800%. The piano melody was pretty much written as I recorded it; I think I was just playing off the stillness of the moment. When I got back to my studio, I recorded the piano sounds to cassette tape which I then unspooled and crinkled it between my fingers to get that kind of messed up tape sound where it’s cutting in and out. Then I recorded it back into the session. I wanted to give it an intimate and lo-fi feel, especially if you’re listening on headphones. 

Under the Covers

The bulk of this was written and sequenced in an hour-long session, immediately after which I recorded a short video of me performing it and improvising some vocal melodies over it. I had posted the video on Facebook and forgot about it for a while. Even though it was not really like anything I had done before, I eventually I came back to it and finished it. I wrote lyrics to fit all the vocal melodies I had originally improvised, added a middle part, and turned it into a real song. The song is about how some people spend so much time focusing on finding love and meaningful relationships in their life that they ignore everything else. I’ve spent a lot of time in my past focusing on what I’ve lost or gained in the search for love while my life fell apart all around me. Love and meaningful relationships ARE important but there needs to be a balance. You need to also take care of yourself and make sure you are able to survive in the world. Love won’t mean shit if you’re not alive to experience it. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure this out.  

Coming Apart

The original idea for this was also written pretty quickly and posted as a video online. I had just started using this vocal FX unit that had a looping feature. I connected a microphone and guitar to it and started building a song progression from simple guitar and vocal loops laid on top of each other. On Facebook you get those dumb “On This Day” notifications and it’s usually some embarrassing shit you said 8 years ago. But the video of this song I made came up one year later and I didn’t hate it. Then it came up again two years later and it was still sounding good to me. So I re-recorded it, building it the same way I originally did using layers of vocal and guitar loops. I added some synth bass and drums and fleshed it out into a full-sounding song. Lyrically it’s a pretty simple theme: regret. And when you’re in a bad place with addiction and depression, emotions like regret seem to loop around, over and over in your head. So I kept the lyrics short and simple and repeated them. And of course the song was built using loops so I feel like that definitely fit the theme I was going for. 

Your Ghost (ft. John Tejada)

I’ve been buying techno records since I was a teenager and John Tejada was always one of my favorite artists. I feel like he was one of the first artists to take the conventions of classic techno music and infuse a very strong Los Angeles sensibility into it. His records always have a certain “soul” to them. His melodic and production choices are always undeniably his. I still own several 12”s of his and him having released records on Plug Research was one of the main reasons I reached out to the label in the first place. So I was overjoyed that I had a chance to actually collaborate on a track with him. He sent me some incredible drum, synth, and bass stems to work with which I then sequenced. I added some guitars, piano, and vocals and it turned into something really deep sounding. It’s got a classic house vibe, but much darker and considerably slower; it’s pretty much the culmination of the sound I was trying to achieve on my first EP, “LXII”. The lyrics are about the dark ritual of addiction; the fetishization of procurement and mode of ingestion. About how you can get so deep into the obsession with chemicals that it becomes your own personal religion. 

Palisade (ft. Christian Gibson)

A chance meeting with Christian got us talking about music production, influences, and art in general. After talking, we exchanged links to our music with each other. When I checked out his album “Cloud Forms” on Spotify, I was blown away. It’s such an intimate and beautiful record of pristine electronic and ambient textures and motifs. There’s a lot of people in Los Angeles that are making music but it’s rare to find someone making the type of music Christian makes. So, of course I immediately suggested we collaborate on some stuff. Within a couple weeks I had sang on one of his songs (coming out soon) and he had contributed this track to my album. He sent me a pretty well fleshed out track to which I added some piano, vocals, and various subtle elements. It came together very nicely. The lyrics are about holding on to events from your past that didn’t go the way you wanted them to. There’s so many things from my past that I wish I could just move on from. The constant rehashing and replaying of these events do me no good, but I guess I get a sort of sick pleasure from subjecting myself to the memories. So hopefully I am able to purge these memories via song. It’s worked in the past!

The Light at the End of The Tunnel Is Not a Light

This song is another one that started out as an experiment that I posted as a video online. I was playing with some stuff in Reaktor and put together a neat sounding dark and glitchy drum idea that I could mutate and change with some midi-mapped knobs and faders. It was really fun to do live. It was intriguing to me because it sounds like nothing I’ve done before. After posting the video I forgot about it but I came across it about a year later and decided to flesh it out into a full song with piano, bass, and vocals. I used a lot of digital harmony processing on the vocals and at times it almost has a 70’s radio pop sound, which when laid on top of a bed of dark and glitchy beats/sounds makes for a really spooky listen. The song finds the character in this album story at the end of his rope. The choices he’s made have left him ostracized and alone without any hope for the future. So, the light he thought he had been aiming for his whole life isn’t actually there anymore. 

We Will Be Lost

After a night out at an underground dark techno event in a dirty downtown L.A. warehouse, I came home at 3am and immediately started writing the beat for this one. I wanted to make something hypnotic and droning, yet danceable. This one came together in just a few days. I originally intended to release it as a single under a different name. But as I added guitar, vocals, and those weird sampled voice elements it started to sound more in line with the vibes I was aiming for as Adult Karate. The original track was like 11 minutes long but I edited it down to 8 minutes as I feel like the progression worked better that way. After the hopelessness of the previous track, this finds the character in the album story devoid of belief in anything. All emotions have been buried and he is merely a shell of a person at this point. He is at the point where he needs to decide whether life is even worth living.

S Del Mar Ave

This is a piano reprise of the melodic themes from the the song “Del Mar.” When Adeline was in my studio recording her vocals, I gave her the chords and recorded her playing it out how she naturally would if it was a solo piano piece (she is a much better pianist than I am). I added some field recordings of a courtyard and a cavernous library to give it a “peaceful” feeling. Conceptually, I like that this track could be interpreted two different ways: after the years of struggle with addiction and depression he has finally given up and has embraced the peace of death OR he was lucky enough to turn his life around and work through all his issues and the peacefulness in the track represents his recovery. When I was living through those dark times, it often seemed like there was no solution other than death. I am eternally grateful that I was wrong. 

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Del Mar - Adult Karate

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Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com