We cannot say that the artwork surrounding releases particularly guides or influences our thoughts going into a new encounter but it has to be admitted that the art wrapping the new KEN mode album made a striking impression whilst sparking intrigue and imagination long before a note was heard. Created by the band’s long-time collaborator Randy Ortiz, it is a piece which also inspired the band itself in regards to Loved, their seventh full-length. Vocalist/guitarist Jesse Matthewson ahead of its release revealed that “We entered writing for this album with one goal in mind – to please the smile” referring to the cover’s protagonist.
He also said “We wanted to make an album that represented a thinking person’s reaction to the political/technological climate we are existing in today. We wanted to make the perfect album to put on repeat while pushing your physical limits to their maximum, if only to silence the noise that is constantly whirring around inside of your own head, even for a brief moment.” Listening to Loved, it is not hard to feel they succeeded in both, certainly in satisfying the smile and though whether you can create perfection can be debated but it is a release which stands on the frontline of their most stirring and striking proposals yet.
From the grungier and expansive indie rock inspired endeavour of its highly enjoyable predecessor, Success, KEN mode has in many ways returned to the sonic viscera and noise punk/hardcore toxicity of the likes of Venerable (2011) and Entrench (2013) for Loved. In saying that, the album equally pushes the bold adventure hinted at in Success to far more magnetic, feral, and maybe for some divisive heights. It is unapologetically invasive, a cauldron of sonic violence, and their most invasively dark offering yet and for us more than possibly their finest moment yet.
Doesn’t Feel Pain Like He Should is the first venomous treat from Loved, the track instantly lancing the senses with a sonic incision before the fierce rapier swings of drummer Shane Matthewson descend closely aligned to the ravenous grumble of Scott Hamilton’s bass. The caustic wires cast from Jesse’s guitar equally infest song and listener making a nagging cradle for the raw throated squall of his vocals all the time rhythms breeding greater virulence in their trespass. It is a glorious nagging of sound taking swipes and bites with every elevation of animosity and twist of enterprise resulting in a deliciously corrosive start to the release.
The Illusion Of Dignity teases with its initial lure before swinging on rapacious rhythms next, Shane’s hits a bone shuddering impact matched in carnal attraction by the resonance of Scott’s bass. Post punk hues add to the noise rock antics bred within the cavernous yet threateningly intimate breath of the track, vocals a toxic animus across the revolving spiral and searing flare up of guitar. As with its predecessor, new intensities fuel and fresh ideation inspires the course of the irresistible intrusion before Feathers & Lips steps forward to prey on senses and psyche. From its first breath it is a challenging threat but quickly springing its own infectious violation as seductively flirtatious as it is menacingly inhospitable. With a web of sonic dissonance and enticement at its heart, it is another which easily got under the skin and infringed upon the senses for rich pleasure.
It there was vague concord in the last track, Learning To Be Too Cold is sheer ill-will and needs a mere breath to invade and suffocate the senses in its corrosive wash and vocal feud as beats again barely labour to punish and incite attention. The vile lure of bass is a treat whilst the sonic scathing from the guitar is a mercilessly nagging breach as magnetic as everything piercing its scarring waves. It is not a song with the same instinctive contagion of those before it but one as memorable while Not Soulmates sets another unforgettable marker with its untamed but skilfully bred cacophony led by vocal discontent.
Very Small Men rears up to share its unique character and proposal swiftly after, dancing in on nimble dynamics driven by Shane’s inimitable rhythmic dexterity. It is soon though blowing a storm of aural animation hell-bent on igniting muscles and addictiveness to flex their instincts as the song’s holler enslaves. It is a thrill of an infestation, discord increasing by every turn of sonic entanglement and emotive dissonance.
From one of the album’s momentous moments to another as the calm swing of This Is A Love Test brings its own array of creative altercation. A jazz nurtured intimating caress is brought by the sax of Kathryn Kerr, its emotive and mellow seducing aligned to vocal reflection but both soon inspiring and joining a rancorous expulsion of frictious inharmony in a schism of enterprise which further inflames ears and thoughts as rhythms permeate the body.
The final pair of Fractures In Adults and No Gentle Art are equally as riveting and argumentative. The first is a senses hassling, evolving drone of disharmony which fingers and violates psyche and self-peace, each wave of creative quarrel intensifying in weight, ferocity, and conflict to disarm and inhumanely seduce while its successor rises up from a connecting rhythmic pulsation, emerging through shadow thick, portentously drenched serenity into almost salacious sonic warfare It stalks the listener from the off, every note and breath bringing a slight elevation in threat and intensity leading to crescendos of visceral expulsions and ravenous corrosion laden discordance again with Kerr’s breath casting creative arson within the gorgeous enmity.
The track is a bewitching, at times bewildering and relentlessly breath-taking conclusion to an album proving so hard to escape and move on to new adventure from. If you are looking for life affirming calm and beauty, Loved is not for you yet in many ways it does feed those desires whilst focusing the senses and thoughts on the reality of the world we are inescapably part of. Self-harm has never been more fun and invigorating than with KEN mode’s latest monster of a gem.
Loved is available now via Season of Mist and @ https://kenmode.bandcamp.com/album/loved
Check out their website for news and dates of their Canadian dates with Shallow in September, US/Canadian tour alongside Birds In Row in October, and European tour with Coilguns and Birds In Row this Nov/Dec.
Pete RingMaster 31/08/2018
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