K-X-P - K-X-P
21st March 2011 | By Matthew Horton | Rating: 8/10 Review here.
This gripping, primal jazz-rock odyssey is full of surprises – the existence of a gripping jazz-rock odyssey for one, but also that it comes from a Finnish trio led by Timo Kaukolampi, until now semi-famous as producer and writer for pop's perennial next big thing, Norwegian singer Annie. Little of that knack for shrill, cheeky melody worms its way in here, and nor do K-X-P allow banks of electronica to buff up an essentially organic sound, yet still there’s a pop sensibility that frees up muso restrictions. K-X-P use an unfussy set-up – synths, bass, drums – to fashion something attractive, layered and unexpectedly catchy.
But yes, it’s a rock dynamic with jazz leanings, instruments played with a live freshness, a sense of quest and experimentation spreading under its skin. For the first minute or so, ‘Elephant Man’ even plants feet firmly on a techno platform before rolling drums take the song into a tribal freakout. Alarmingly, ‘Mehu Moments’ hoves to with a synth throb straight out of David Guetta’s work on Black Eyed Peas' 'I Gotta Feeling', although it soon becomes plain that this is a rhythm track and no cheesy pop adornment. Instead the piece takes flight on flirty bass, almost disco in its joyous skip before noodly analogue keys suggest Terry Riley's minimal jazz composition 'Rainbow In Curved Air'. That’s about the most high-falutin’ reference here, on a largely instrumental album that places greater emphasis on the groove than po-faced craftsmanship.
In fact, it’s easy to spray the krautrock tags around – so let’s do it. ‘Labirynth’ rockets along with Can propulsion, drop-outs and circling effects neatly summing up its title. This is a tooled-up dance track with a creepy, jerky synth riff and passages of metal-edged funk. K-X-P also lock into a steadfast groove on ‘Aibal Dub’, but here it’s closer to the relentless rhythms of ESG, anything fancy kept to the bare minimum as the mantra becomes the thing. In less imaginative hands this could be boring, but K-X-P splash around the effects and, above all, grab attention with muscular playing. Programmed beats can feel soulless; the metronomic application of these real players has a sweaty intensity.
We hear Kaukolampi now and again, first of all with a nagging post-punk chant on the Glitter Band (or Battles) stomp of ’18 Hours (Of Love)’ and later over the hard flat beats and zappy synths of ‘Pockets’, yelping out lines like Alan Vega as pressure builds with every whump until release comes with the sort of wig-out that died with hardcore rave. A voice makes a change, but it never overshadows the steel and whipcord rhythms that give the album its essence. Only on final track ‘Epilogue’ does the rock monster rebel against the groove, blocks of synthesiser forming a looming wall of sound that shares common ground with Salem's witch house, where beats meet metal with oppressive force. Otherwise this set bowls along with a kinetic force, the natural product of a rock outfit that prizes rhythm over reason and freedom over structure to create an unlikely pop moment.