You can’t fault K-X-P for touting themselves as the ‘anti-band’; nowadays, the concept is not exactly synonymous with creativity. By calling themselves ‘the antidote’, the Finns aren’t staking a claim to owning a disorganised, anarchic sound. On the contrary, their second album possesses well-structured beats, created by modified electronics, a hint of vocal shoegazing and industrial, gravelly loops.
“K-X-P started after I wanted to stop playing in bands,” frontman Timo defiantly explains. The name is also far from the kind of cut-and-shut job often resulting from a desperate search for originality, using random Wikipedia articles and online band name generators. Rather, Timo Kaukolampi – electronics and vocals – is the ‘K’, Tuomo Puranen, who plays bass and keyboards, is the ‘P’ and drummers Tomi Leppänen and Anssi Nykänen are the ‘X’, also being a purely studio addition to the group.
This Helsinki two-cum-foursome were partially evolved from Finland’s Op:l Bastards – a fact which will mean little to many, but the electronic hallmarks from the former outfit are still there. K-X-P II was predominantly recorded in Berlin in converted cinemas and traditional studios, using analogue electronics to give birth to short, repetitive riffs. The result is a primitive and ‘live’ sounding collection of tracks, with scratchy production that mirrors the instruments used.
Despite listing devotional chants, P.I.L. and early Misfits as their predominant influences, the material is poppy and its beats and loops squat in the aural cavity. While there are tracks from post-punk – even shoegaze – beginnings, the lyrics lean more towards the spiritual and introspective – certainly not John Lydon’s bag.
But there’s an obvious symmetry with Holy Fuck’s rumbling, industrial beats and spacey feel in the recording. Illustrated as early on as Melody, with its emphatic beat and repeated “Melodee, melodah”, it also unavoidably, perhaps deliberately mimics The Beatles’ Obla Di Obla Da. Those, rumbling, train track post-rock drums burst into life throughout, working well with the industrial flurries and epic loop of Staring At The Moon and the insistent synth that shares the metronome role in Magnetic North. Flags And Crosses has that same pulse, but is perhaps the most Krautrock offering, punctuated by the title words sung in monotone and the lines “Let’s die tonight, let’s stay alive tonight,” marking Timo’s father’s World War II experiences.
There’s a lulling, half-sung, half-whispered vocal quality to Kaukolampi’s voice, which isn’t dissimilar from that of The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne – fitting, considering the smattering of mystery in the tracks. A penchant for the leftfield is most obvious with a series of Fuck Buttons-esque segways – Ydolem’s brass section warm-up, Rbjtev’s orchestral M25 traffic jam mix and Reel Ghosts, composed from distant voices found on reel-to-reel tape.
But these unusual moments always pave the way for more familiar territory. Tears (Extended Interlude)’s monastic start progresses into synthetic chimes, changing the pace with a gentle canter through windswept vocal sound effects. But if the segways and the peppering of mood changer tracks like this, or the post-rock, ’60s feel of In The Valley aren’t enough of a break from the driving beats, Infinity Waits will be the deal breaker. Altogether more tongue-in-cheek and polished, its ’80s camp feel is alien among the esoteric content.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that K-X-P are a band, whether they like it or not. It almost does them a disservice to declassify them, as they are a serious prospect that deserves notice. K-X-P II is much more than an experiment in tinkering with vintage instruments and influences. The balance of a big, yet primitive sound is ripe for filtering south beyond the confines of the world’s second most northern capital.