Editions Mego (2012)
For those new to KTL’s world, treat yourself to V‘s subtle, deliciously ethereal drones and creepy electronics. For everyone else, what’s astonishing about V is how far Stephen O’Malley and Peter Rehberg have lept from the niche they’d constructed for themselves as collaborators.
Last time I wrote about KTL they were a dark and abrasive beast but V has traded in the Industrial ambiance of earlier releases. No more thwarted guitars or crunchy electrical disarray. The stark atmosphere has been given a burst of warmth. These days KTL deal in full bodied and organic sounding drones, embellished with faint samples and gentle guitar work. It’s easy for music this restrained to sound forced and laborious but O’Malley and Rehberg have enough control over this simple palette to ensure things remain invigorating. The tracks become more complex as the album progresses, climaxing with the second last number Phil 2 featuring the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. What a fucking cracker this track is; a shape shifting collage of sustained notes vibrating out of a brass section, the trombone making your bowls quiver.
Unfortunately V is spoilt by the closing number Last Spring: A Prequel, a 20-minute French spoken-word dirge that comes off self indulgent and completely at odds with the rest of the record. Without it, I’d almost call V a masterpiece. Even so, it’s amazing how KTL have transformed themselves from darkness into some sort of light. If their previous albums were the sound of disused torture chambers, than V is the morbidly romantic visual of watching flowers wither and die in slow motion.
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 the 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.