KEN mode have not and do not make life easy, either for themselves or their listeners. Depending on your viewpoint and sonic sensibilities, this is either an instant turn-off or a reason to stay cackling glued to their career. Me? I love ’em.
‘VOID’ serves as a companion piece to last year’s excellent ‘NULL’, and both albums were forged amid the bleak, draining, uncertain times of the pandemic. While ‘NULL’ leant into the sense of directionless rage many of us felt as we witnessed our careers, relationships and mental health slide out from under us, ‘VOID’ is a more meditative release and takes a longer – but certainly no less shattered – view.
While there are no shortage of riffs that strain and creak like old sports injuries, the record oozes into new and unexpected crannies. Basslines grind and chafe while vocals darkly mutter, and Kathryn Kerr continues to expand the band’s sonic palette with keys and saxophone that are by turns tranquil and evilly, howlingly jarring. As things unfold the band’s sludgy, craggy-edged noise-rock takes in post-rock (The Shipping News, Victory At Sea and The Sonora Pine variously spring to mind), industrial and blaring no-wave, while occasional threads suggest a more cinematic focus, as though alluding to old, smoky film noir setpieces.
As with everything they’ve put their name to, there is a bitter sense of frustration at play here. While much of this is focused inward, ‘VOID’ also looks to just how fucked the pandemic has left us as a species: more flawed and fractured than ever before, and blithely unaware of how faultily we’ve all been rewired. The results are difficult and challenging, but they also feel necessary. After all, things aren’t alright. Are they?