There’s nothing like an artistic partnership built on shared influences; you can learn as much about the other person as you do about yourself, seeing your favorite bands through someone else’s eyes. Take, for example, Michigan artist Noah Kim, who records as No Algorithm, and the three years they spent working with Khal Malik (aka Bedtime Khal) on the collaborative album Sideria.
The eight tracks, in all their lo-fi glory, grew out of the duo’s background in bedroom pop, their shared love of abstract emo, and their individual explorations of identity. They first met in 2017 through a mutual school friend–at the time, Malik was looking for a guitarist for his band The Plastic Bears. “I was very enticed at first,” says Kim, “But I wasn’t really sure what my living situation was gonna be since my lease was up, and I had nowhere to go besides couch surfing in Grand Rapids, or, God forbid, moving back into my hometown.”
So Malik offered to sublet a room to them for the summer. Kim calls it a blessing, looking back. Sideria started taking shape song by song as the two worked on their respective solo projects, growing as artists together and in parallel. Along the way, they discovered a musical compatibility that went deeper than they realized.
“It wasn’t just the times we’ve learned audio engineering together, but also listening to our inspirations at the time,” says Kim. “I recall magical moments like realizing we had listened to the same artists but from separate projects, and we would then exchange what introduced us to said artists. Funny how life works out like that.”
Malik explains: “One great example is the band Owen, the project of Mike Kinsella. When Noah and I first met, I had never heard of Cap’n Jazz. They introduced me to all the great bands the Kinsella brothers are a part of. Theo Hilton of Defiance Ohio and Nana Grizol was a funny coincidence. We each had heard of one of those bands, but not the other; it was super dope.”
They discovered the unique social perspectives they brought to the collaborative table in much the same way–each of them working outside the cis-white-male homogeneity of mainstream indie, but from their own distinct angles. Kim says you can hear many points of growth in their understanding when you listen to the finished record:
“Despite coming from different backgrounds, we’ve slowly come to understand how similarly we’ve been stuck in the in-between of what was expected of us, from either our families, peers, or ourselves,” says Kim. “What hit me hard was that identities were about as defined by yourself as much as others want to reflect that.
“We get pigeonholed all the time. If you were to reduce yourself down to your age, trauma, race, gender, ethnicity, you’ll start to question whether you’re just that, whether you’re enough or not enough. It’s quite pervasive, because even if it ultimately didn’t matter, it almost always will. At the same time, we may still pride ourselves in these pockets we fall into, and I think that’s okay as long as it’s healthy. I think this and that is what Sideria really feels like.”
The album originally came out in December of 2020 as a Bandcamp download and cassette (as of the writing of this article, tapes are still available). Now Sideria is available on a wider range of streaming platforms, where Kim looks forward to connecting with a larger base of emo fans and those on a similar path to understanding the ways they define themselves.
“I’m excited that this is reaching out to as many people as it is. I hope that a lot of other people who can relate can also find solace and profound comfort in it.”