Kumo 99 | Those Wordless Apexes, That Speechless Speed

Via Issue 192, Gettin' Around

Written by

Bree Castillo

Photographed by

Chris Yellen

Styled by

Rachel Thorson

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Left to right: Nate wears ENTIRE STUDIOS shirt and pants and talent’s own shoes. Ami wears FENDI dress, talent’s own socks and jewelry, and VIRON shoes.

When words fail us, is there still much to be felt through sound alone? Can a hum become an answer and a breath, a confession? Nate Donmoyer of drum and bass, punk-industrial duo Kumo 99 believes so, revealing, “I genuinely could feel ecstasy from a bass sound if it’s just right.” Within the universe of Kumo 99, Nate’s pummeling percussion and glitchy jungle sentiments are set aflame by Ami Komai’s crushing lyrical Japanese. Together they make a muse out of sheer pervasive force with Headplate, their latest offering.

The 10-track opus delves into the vastness of falling as we ride the ebbs and flows of their endless wind-up. Leaving right where they left off with 2022’s Body N. Will, Headplate continues their spiraling escape through the means of tightly-packed, beat-driven escapades and dark post-apocalyptic entanglements. The title track plays like an out-of-breath heartbeat surged back to life, while “Dopamine Chaser” and “Gomi” set a bed of nostalgic 90s rave tones for Ami’s pure aggression to reach a well-deserved apex. 

“I think language is political,” Ami shares. Even on the album’s more open-hearted and softly paced tracks, her lines are delivered as if fact in brutally clear Japanese. “I think for me personally, that feeling of having to do everything in English and not even realizing that, and then getting super upset about it was the reason why I decided to do what I wanted.” Nate adds, “There are certain things you can say in certain languages that just aren’t translatable because of the structure and the cadences and the rhythms. That’s the reason why I like the tool sets, the rhythm of it. It’s a whole different brain function.”

There is this urgency in each phrase, a density of inflection that is intentional and stimulating. You listen closer and realize each syllable holds more meaning than the translation or word itself. It is here where Ami transcends linguistic barriers, offering another texture to be felt. As lyrics aren’t readily available online (I’ve searched), maybe it’s for the best as to save her prose from carelessly cruel AI translators.

FENDI dress, talent’s own socks and jewelry, and VIRON shoes.

And yes, words might travel fast, but music travels much faster—especially if the music, is well, fast. I first learned of the LA-based band via a text message flyer for a night where they played with a mix of hardcore and other 180 and up bpm-adjacent bands at Genghis Cohen in Hollywood. It could be argued that taste, in most instances anyway, is united in friends we trust. Ami reflects, “I think taste is so associated with memory and nostalgia, what you grew up with, what you grew up seeing, what something reminds you of. I think music has a lot to do with it.” This is where a chemical reaction in our brain’s psychology occurs, where music becomes a part of the setting, an inescapable facet of our environments. For Ami, her taste is made up of Southern California’s San Pedro and “very much the sounds of guitars,” while Nate’s context is the breakbeats noise of Southern Maryland and DC funk bands with over nine drummers.

Constantly in motion, Kumo 99 has returned from their recent tour de Japan visiting Tokyo, Shibuya, and Osaka after stints on the East and West Coasts. When we speak, they confess to playing around 18 shows in March alone. Is this a search for meaning amidst cacophony? Ami shares, “You have absolutely zero control once you’re out there. There’s nothing you can do about it. And so, you’re trying to control things by these weird rituals that you have to do to, I don’t know, feign some sort of control and order.” As we, the audience, are looking for the loss of control and a release within the loud music, finding solace within each liberating beat, it seems that Kumo 99 is searching for the opposite—a place where music gives into reason, to powers that are still within our reach.

With many variables and moments out of reach having to align to create just one song—whether it’s the day’s mood or lingering furies from the past—I ask the duo when they know a song is complete, when nothing else can be done and there is nothing left to want. Nate shares, “You listen, you hear it, and there’s no itch.” And Ami says that “taking the lament out of [making music]” by never monetizing their expressions is how they began and intend to continue, cementing that Kumo 99 is true to its punk-like sentiments. After all, in matters of the heart, it’s never about gain but the willingness to stay open. Decoupling survival,” Nate concludes. “As soon as it wasn’t survival, it became more honest.” 

Ami wears SANDRO jacket, EMPATH skirt, talent's own shoes, and KWK glasses. Nate wears MIKIO SAKABE jacket, SANDRO pants, and VIRON shoes.

Photographed by Chris Yellen

Styled by Rachel Thorson

Written and Produced by Bree Castillo 

Hair/Makeup: Anne Vega

Photo Assistant: Jack Balaban

Stylist Assistant: Leila Abraham

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Flaunt Magazine, Issue 192, Gettin' Around, Kumo 99, Nate Donmoyer, Ami Komai, Music, Bree Castillo, Chris Yellen, Rachel Thorson