Innovative Finnish post-kraut acid stompers deliver a third set of irresistible weirdosity
The Scandinavians rarely put a foot wrong when it comes to music. From the peerless bittersweet pop tones of Abba, right up to the present with Miike Snow, First Aid Kit and Lykke Li, as well as less pop-oriented acts like The Knife and Junip, the Nordics always seem to make their mark.
K-X-P are perhaps the most adventurous of the current bunch of boreal bands, mixing a wild range of influences and reference points with a lightness of touch. They seem constantly at pains to eschew the constraints of the conventional band structure. Even their name hints at something different, with the “K” being lead vocalist and electronics whizz Timo Kaukolampi, the “P” Tuomo Puranen, who delivers bass and keyboards, and the “X” a mysterious percussive element that changes constantly.
Think pulsing acid house and techno-flavoured drama fused with krautrock discipline, glam rock playfulness and West Coast psychedelia. Then throw in the pagan abandon of the Magnetic North and a commitment to the party, and you’ve got some sense of what makes ‘III, Part One’ a worthwhile listen. There’s a plethora of riches to get stuck into here, as was hinted at by last year’s brilliant, out-of-nowhere, proto-Detroit three-track banger, ‘The History Of Techno’, and as will no doubt be further explored on ‘III, Part Two’, which follows in the next few months.
The first track, ‘Space Precious Time’, is a chanted sing-a-long stomper. Heard in a dark club in the small hours, the buzzing, wheeling chords would be impossible to resist. Even higher up the BPM register, ‘RA’ positively insists we join the revelry. ‘Obsolete And Beyond’ comes next and is as a complete surprise, spinning us back a few decades, giddily channelling Joe Jackson’s ‘Steeping Out’ bassline and Vangelis’ swirling synth patterns, and pairing them with exhilaratingly delivered, cave-echoed vocals. It’s a high-octane nutcase of a track.
One minor criticism is that K-X-P’s appetite for fluidity and innovation means they fail to notice that little of what they’ve done before needed fixing. They sounded fully in their stride on the poppily accessible ‘In The Valley’ (from ‘II’), for example, and the mind-boggling ‘Pockets’ (from their self-titled debut) demonstrated their alt-dance prowess in no uncertain terms. But it’s the sometimes prosaic nature of the percussion here that lets this otherwise excellent piece of work down slightly, missing as it is the motorik adeptness of the previous two albums.
Ultimately, though, we can probably all live with that and doff our caps to K-X-P’s desire for change. Particularly as ‘Descend To Eternal’ hoves into view. Breathtakingly cosmic and hypnotic but boldly spacious, it really is quite a thing. As with much of the rest of ‘III, Part One’, it conveys a strong sense of communion with matters higher, transporting us somewhere deliciously between the strobe blasted dancefloor and the starlit frozen forest. And who would want to be anywhere else?