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Kontakte – These Machines

The Collapse Of Everything

Kontakte – These MachinesKontakte‘s latest album proves itself to be well worth the two years of concerted effort the duo have put into pushing the envelope of their music. It feels somehow broader, more expansive, even for a band who already knew full well how to bring out the brightly psychedelic edges and sharpen their perceptions on the manoeuvrings of their guitar, bass and electronics.

The sense of stillness, of time held in abeyance, that Kontakte are so fond of utilising acts as a melodic counterpoint to the moment which every step through the pluck and soft strum of a clean guitar and the hovering keyboard drone presages – that drop, the kicking in of drum machine and enough fuzz and distortion to quite thoroughly shatter the doors of perception. The mode is quiet, loud, quiet, afterburn, achieving density through the application of layer upon layer and seemingly instrument upon instrument. Piling on the riffs and ramping up the rolling beats could so easily drift into pomposity, into the sort of self-congratulatory morass of proggishness which is the great failing of the branch of post-rock which thought only to soar and forgot how to groove.

Kontake have never forgotten the body’s essential place in the process of deeply enjoying music, and when they let rip and give the listener’s ears a good flushing, it’s by means of a churning sound which sometimes harks back to the Nineties ethos of so many guitar bands who lurched across Camden Town with eyeballs a-popping and a pedalboard full of grit. What distinguishes Kontakte among the new wave of post-grunge/post-rock acts is the often quite loved-up techno sensibility which their rhythm section brings, complete with Ian Griffiths‘ synths and sequences which have been around the dancefloor a few times and a no less ecstatic for it. Stuart Low‘s love of the moment when he gets to spread the distortion good and thick and let the feedback from his guitar do the heavy lifting is evident in good enough measure to leaven the dancier moments with a growling measure of doomish thunder.

“Sci-fi Rising” is the track most in the spirit of Kontakte’s We Move Through Negative Spaces album, though the funky synth bassline prefaces a full-on thumping acid techno rockout. When a trancy number like “Alpha Beta Gamma Delta” emerges from the rockier moments, its title sung through a vocoder in a repetitive chant, it’s tempting to invoke the spirit of those doyens of kosmische techno-rock, Trans Am. While there’s some affinity with the latter’s brand of electro-worshipping guitar groove, Kontakte have a different feel to their music, not least that they seem to have somewhat more serious intent to entertain, even elevate, and never sound like they are playing with one ironic eyebrow raised.

Far from it, as the gentle guitar loops and loping rhythms of the fifteen-minute “Immortal Engines” demonstrate, lilting their introduction to yet more dynamic range perambulations. Soon enough, Kontakte slip propulsively into a buoyant trance workout which is bound to get live audiences bouncing on their dancing feet as the chord changes signal the sort of crashing surge which stage monitors were made for guitarists to plant one foot upon as the music wells up in layer upon triumphant layer. Quite how many extra guitar sounds they bring to the mix is eventually hard to discern, but the rush they feel as each pedal is pressed into action must be considerable.

These Machines is a determinedly good-natured album, one which at its peaks – there are several – provokes spikes of eager anticipation at the realisation that Kontakte are going to go just that little bit further out than the last time they took off for the heart stars and produced such fulsomely emotive floods of major-key uplift.

-Antron S Meister-

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