K-X-P – IV

Ambient music is tricky. Get it right and you can create some of the most mind-blowing, expansive, forward-thinking art imaginable. Get it wrong and you’re left looking like a pretentious mess. It’s very difficult to ride the line of pretension and come out on the right side when making anything that forsakes a conventional song structure, but by album six, you’d think K-X-P would be pretty adept, right?

As ‘Nimetön Tie’ slowly fades into existence, synths, and moans flashing overhead with distorted, sparse vocals echoing, all seems well and set for a thrilling psychotropic journey. This din slowly grows over a lengthy period of time – ‘Nimetön Tie’ is a whopping twenty-two minutes long – and is slowly and subtly joined by a throbbing bass and synthesised roars that sound like brass instruments. It’s ominous and uplifting, but you can’t help but think the experience would be enhanced by some sort of mind-altering chemicals – don’t do drugs, kids. As a drum machine finally joins the fray to add a conventional rhythm to the song things kick off properly at around the four-minute mark. As the song continues you start to realise that basically the same cycle is being repeated, spiralling on into infinity. This whirlpool of monotony is emblematic of the problem with IV (Svart Records), there are too few ideas spread too thin on the ground. If this is the dialogue between machine and man, then it’s a frightfully boring conversation.

‘Hex Bag’ does something to remedy the relative tedium of its forbearer by being mere almost-seven minutes long, and jumping straight to the point. A reverberating synth plinks out delicate but deliberate notes as a bass drum fades in, with a viscerally distorted bass accompanying it. The hi-hat sparks up a relative jolt of excitement and synth saws whizz around the speakers. Say what you will about this album and its shortcomings, but it sounds out of this world from a production standpoint. Glistening, lustrous sounds greet the listener and help to envelope you in K-X-P’s dark, twisted fantasy world.

Finale, ‘Night Eye / Smile Through Tears’ is a far more upbeat and instantaneous song than it’s predecessors, with a vocal line you can actually sing along to if you so wish. More Disco inspired than dark Synth Pop, it bounces along nicely and remains an entertaining few minutes. But once again it brings us back to the ultimately most damning criticism; there just aren’t enough ideas here to sustain an album’s worth of material, no matter how good the undeniably stellar production may be. Yes, the album sounds incredible, but who is this album for beyond audiophiles? The songs are far too long for clubbing, there aren’t enough hooks to make them Synth Pop bangers, they’re a bit too chilled out for a rave crowd, and if a stoner wants to relax they’re more likely going to reach for Sleep. Or Primus if they’re feeling weird. The whole thing just feels aimless and meandering and made more for its creators than the listener.