Listening to The KVB’s latest album is a bit like playing ‘spot the influence’. Various combinations pop up throughout Unity, a collection that sounds like a mashing-together of several bands, and it’s a guessing game as to which blend Nicholas Wood and Kat Day will use next. Overall, their sound doesn’t stray far from the core values that have typified the now married duo’s sound, which melds shoegaze with psychedelia and electronica, but each of the 10 tracks conjures up visions of others at every turn; maybe that’s not such a bad thing when you see the list of who you’re reminded of.
From Kraftwerk to The Dandy Warhols via Engineers, New Order and Ladytron, the list of likenesses is long and there’s not really a noticeable shift in quality whichever route they take, such is the consistently impressive output they’ve managed to lay down on record since first germinating ideas back in early 2019 whilst residing in Spain. It’s this Spanish experience of “desolate landscapes” that produced instrumental opener Sunrise Over Concrete, in fact, being something we’ve all noticed if venturing to mainland Spain at some point in recent history – those numerous, unfinished piles of concrete that represent so many people’s housing dreams before financial issues brought their construction and excited hopes to a halt.
Once the album gets over its gloomy introduction though, highlights are everywhere. Unité is like a dancefloor hit for industrial automatons, the era of Trans-Europe Express Kraftwerk coupling with The Dandy Warhols vibes for something special. Latest single Unbound then takes a motorik beat and mixes it with an ’80s synth backdrop, but it’s the overwhelming sense of melodic electronica and shoegaze that dominates, bringing about Engineers comparisons.
Robotic effort Future is aptly named, being a futuristic Ladytron like cut with its depressing message (“our future, your future, no future”) dressed in a chirpy shell with guitars and synths the driving force. And then along come New Order: the excellent Structural Index nods towards their hit Crystal but it’s not just the Mancunians that you’re reminded of here, with a brushing of three of the aforementioned bands (Engineers, Kraftwerk and The Dandy Warhols) being evident. Then Lumens blends New Order influences with Engineers again but also Ladytron – it’s a merry-go-round of ingredients that keep returning into earshot.
Reflective closer Omni is another highlight, with The Dandy Warhols again recalled, most notably by the hushed vocal stylings that Courtney Taylor-Taylor employs to great effect. Perhaps, though, it’s when there’s little messing with the recipe that they hit their stride more strikingly. Eponymous track The KVB is another excellent number that pulsates before turning into something very close to Underworld’s Listen To Their No, and the more uptempo lead single World On Fire recalls another band where the duo are a couple – Moon Duo.
Wood describes Unity as having a “strong sense of moving forward”, and if we’re talking in terms of development in both songwriting and appeal then he’s right. Quite comfortably the duo’s best album to date, Unity is – literally – like all your favourite bands rolled up into one.