Digging: KTL

Editions Mego (2006)

The sonics of Black Metal have spawned an entire world of weirdo, ambient but heavy-as-fuck mutants making dark and cavernous music that gets your teeth rattling. Here thektl impossibly busy Stephen O’Malley (Sunn O))), Ginnungagap and numerous other outfits) and electronic composer Peter Rehberg (Pita) converge their powers to create this monster of doom, drone ambiance.

Opening with a 25-minute organ drone, which slowly (ever so slowly!) builds into a ‘crescendo’ of O’Malley twang, the boys hit the pedals and get down to business. KTL is a plodding sea urchin of detuned, blown out guitars and electronic squeals. They lure us deep down into some long forgotten cave where blind amoebas ooze down the walls to feed on our brains.

Everything O’Malley touches is about the ‘drone’ but don’t be fooled into thinking this is just more of Sunn O)))’s same. Where that band is about ritual and pagan rites of passage, there’s something much more natural and earthy (another tribute to O’Malley’s favourite act, I guess) about the sound of KTL. The track titles allude to this vibe (Forest Floor #1, Snow), but this sense is also reflected in the rich browns and  autumnal colours of the sound they’re manipulating. Hence my cave analogy.

We can’t allow Rehberg to be overshadowed by O’Malley. I’m not familiar with his work, but in KTL he is given free reign to fly solo over the mass of guitars.  On Forest Floor #2 he toys with high register squeaks and missives that create an awkward tension, while on Forest Floor #3 he adds another layer of doom to the low-end guitars like a heroin addict’s nightmare.

The album is bookended with a second restrained piece that collects field recordings and static hiss, while O’Malley seems to wrestle with his guitar in the background. The instrument almost has a life of its own, occasionally getting the better of him to spurt out a twang or jarring shriek. With so much sound on the rest of the album these subtle moments are a welcome relief. The restrained and jangly sounds on this record have definitely had an influence on Sunn O)))’s more recent output, such as last year’s Domkirke.

KTL is the first release in a series of albums and live-recorded podcasts that have been released independently. I must get around to picking up a few more of KTL’s gems.

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