K-X-P: II (Melodic)
Out 11 Feb. 2013
On their Facebook page, K-X-P describe themselves as “Original-Electronic-Motorhead-Space-Trance-Spiritual-Rock-Meditation-FreeJazz-Godz.” Are they? Simon Tucker reviews their new album, II.
Finlands’ K-X-P have, with this their second record, returned with an album that is striving to move away from their Krautrock-heavy debut and trying to push their sound into more pop territory.
Written in Berlin following some personal losses to main man Timo, the album was recorded in various locations including a converted cinema with Timo (who has worked in the Xenomania pop factory) letting his inner pop tendencies flow into the process instead of curtailing them like the previous record.
So how does this clash of styles work?
Let’s find out shall we.
Opener ‘Ydolem’ is a nice 30 seconds of instrumental brass and organ which drifts by nicely preparing for the real opener – ‘Melody’.
‘Melody’ starts with some a-typical synth stabs and the chant of “K-X-P’. Now, I do have an issue with bands that insert their names into songs (exceptions to the rule include EMF, P.I.L, and KLF). I often wonder why do this? I remember a band called Fleshbind that used to have a track whose chorus went “FLESHBIND FC!”. They changed their name to LostProphets and well… Anyway, back to ‘Melody’ and, despite the unnecessary use of the bands name, the track is really rather good. Hushed vocals on the verse lend a Bobby Gillespie-esque feel, and the chorus is MASSIVE. The track builds and builds with orchestration and would sound great playing out on the radio. Very Echo and the Bunnymen, and the first example that the new poppier edge may well work.
‘Staring At The Moon’ drives in and in and in (you get the picture) on a sustained riff building and building. Again, whispered chant like vocals mutter statements, but all this is really about the drop into the chorus. When the chorus appears at two odd minutes in, the track turns into a wannabee techno slammer. This is all well and good (and again, I think this will sound great on the radio) however it feels to me too poppy. Fans of Kasabian and your general Radio 1 “indie/dance” fan will probably love it, and I think it will sound great in a muddy field after a few psychedelic ciders, but for me it just lacks a little bit of extremity.
‘RBJTEV’ is just a few seconds of noise. The noise you get when a band are finishing a song and are milking the applause. Pointless
‘Magnetic North’ comes in straight with a four-four house beat and it’s time for the “dance” track. New Order drum rolls, house synths, and a Death In Vegas feel. A decent track and a tune that will slay an indie-disco dance floor but, unfortunately, it just sounds like something that’s been done before and something which Primal Scream mastered on ‘Evil Heat’.
‘EKMVIV’ is again a quick instrumental electronica break leading straight into….
‘In The Valley’ goes back to a more Krautrock feel with touches of English folk/psychedelic. A female vocal by Annie says much about nothing and the tune drifts around and around. Very early Pink Floyd feel to this, building layer upon layer of sound until crashing down with an ominous outro.
‘Tears (Extended Interlude)’ is another instrumental track but is far superior to what has come before. Choir intro, with the vocal harmonies floating through a marching rhythm, lend this track a real up-beat vibe. More and more instrumentation gets introduced as the track progresses. This is a highlight of the album and the only instrumental track on the record (so far) that not only warrants it’s place on the here, but easily surpasses most of what has gone before it.
Then we land back down with a bump with ‘Flags & Crosses’. Once again, the track opens with a rhythmic synth before a melody that reminds me of ABBA drops in. An opening vocal of “FFLLLLAAAAGGGSSSSS” and “CCRRROOOOSSSSEEESSSS” does not help matters much. This is aiming at “cosmic’ territory and I’m sure the group were “feeling it, man!” when they recorded it, but it feels about as cosmic as flying saucer sweet. Has a Muse-type outro as well. Oh dear.
‘Reel Ghosts’ is ANOTHER short instrumental which is basically a choir and track played backwards. Anyway…
‘Easy (Infinity Waits)’ is a bit more like it. Glam Rock stomp, Gary Numan vocals, Depeche Mode instrumentation: This track stands out like a sore thumb on this record as it is FUN. Perfect for a dance floor with a great rhythm make this one of the more enjoyable tracks on the record.
This leads us into the final track, ‘Dark Satellite’.
The final track is yet another instrumental one, but don’t let that put you off. This is a driving, stomping, snarling, rocking instrumental. Full of ethereal vocals, buried guitar riffage, and deep techno beat, THIS is what the rest of the album should have been like. The track just gets bigger and bigger and then…stops. The massive freak-out you expect to happen never comes and that is a good thing. The cliché would have been the chaotic explosion type ending but K-X-P reign it in and leave you dangling. Good move.
So II is a very mixed bag indeed. The record should make them bigger and more popular and will surely get them more airtime on the radio, so in that sense it’s a good record. Also, seeing them live should be interesting and especially in a festival setting. Fans of Kasabian will probably love this album. I, however, was left with a massive sense of disappointment. The record is all recorded well, and is more catchy, etc. but I felt it lacked a bit of bravery and experimentation. I could not see any of the influences (P.I.L. etc.) that the band cite anywhere, I could however see the influence of bands like Primal Scream, Doves, Muse, Death in Vegas and other and that, I fear, is the records biggest flaw. It shows its influences but does nothing new with them. If you really want to hear this type of music, check out ‘Evil Heat’ by Primal Scream, ‘Movement’ by New Order, or any of the last two Horrors records.
Words by Simon Tucker. More writing by Simon on Louder Than War can be found here.