K-X-P, S/T

Published on July 30th, 2010 in: Music, Music Reviews, Reviews |

By Ben Sullivan

In our current cultural moment of sonic permissiveness and fraying mainstream consensus, instrumental rock is no longer ghettoized to the skinny aisles of sub-genre. Prog is no longer a four letter word; electronic/rock hybrids are old hat. Even when the guitar is de-emphasized à la Out Hud—or completely absent, as with Add (N) to (X)—vocal-light bands specializing in sturdy rock grooves now enjoy growing audiences and heightened festival appeal.

kxp album art

That being said, the ubiquity of the guitar and the immediacy of its musical heritage still pay dividends. The six-stringers in Battles can still reliably benefit from stage-side guitar-nerds slobbering over their nervy chops. Post-rockers Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky have proven accessible enough for big-budget soundtrack work. So: whither the synthesizer in the expanding landscape of post-pop?

K-X-P’s synth-centric self-titled debut is redoubtably Teutonic. Driving, unfettered motorik grooves undergird a tasteful array of analog modules bubbling, reverberating, and panning towards dawn. Founder and lead wavesmith Timo Kaukolampi manages the density of his arrangements skillfully and with rockist panache, patiently staging his modulations over the insinuating groove of “Mehu Moments.” Kaukolampi expertly samples (and simulates) a gate-reverb-drenched guitar in “18 Hours (Of Love),” a credible club rave-up caught somewhere between Depeche Mode’s shuffle grooves and Alan Vega’s solo output.

K-X-P recalibrate from the opening troika of droning head-nodders to a pair of modal workouts that recall early Orbital. This is a perfectly timed retreat from formula acknowledging the past masters of electronic album sequencing. The slinky phrasing and slightly off-sounding quantization of “Aibal Dub” is a welcome respite from the album’s aversion to verse-chorus dynamics and progression.

While K-X-P seem to agree on producing ample space in the mix, allowing their textures to saturate their monadic grooves, the material was largely composed by Kaukolampi prior to the inception of the band. The constraints of writing and performing five minute rock tracks without live accompaniment remain evident in the finished product; looped bass lines tend to drift through entire tracks, and there are precious few pop cadences for Kaukolampi to deliver his off-the-cuff lines over. Only in the vocal highlight “Pockets” does the rhythm section cut out entirely, here to build tension for the introduction of a well-placed arpeggiator sequence.

K-X-P’s next release should prove to be an interesting venture with additional voices in the mix . . . but maybe it’s time to take a lesson from the guitar-slingers and get organic, loosen up, and break out of the MIDI mold.

K-X-P’s self-titled debut was released July 20 on Smalltown Supersound. To listen to tracks, check out K-X-P’s website or MySpace page.

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