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KTL: V (Editions Mego)

KTL is an ongoing collaboration between label boss Peter Rehberg (Pita) and Stephen O’Malley (SunnO))))). Knowing each artist’s inclination toward abrasive sounds, I am surprised how smoothly most of V goes down. It’s still not exactly what you might call easy listening, but these experiments are taut and tense rather than noisy or overpowering. The album is broken into 5 pieces (fitting given the title, and also their fifth album — go figure) and each one takes its time. “Phill A” is chilling in its prolonged, tense drones, with an icy airiness to it. “Study A” is a little more shrill, with more a obvious combination of feedback and harmonics in its arrangement, but it comes and goes like a slow tide over the span of its 9 minutes. I’m assuming “Tony” is a tribute to Tony Conrad’s droning sax repertoire, though KTL still focus primarily on guitar feedback — effective nevertheless, a slowly shifting study in timbre. But the pièce de resistance is “Phill 2,” a massive orchestral arrangement by Johann Johannsson, performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic. It’s a dazzling 15 minutes of looming dread, truly awesome. It’s easily my favorite part of this already-great album. Closing it out is “Last Spring: A Prequel.” I hate to say it, but this one is a big miss for me. Spoken word is almost always a challenge for my ears, and in this case, it’s what I’d describe as spoken demon/French. Jonathan Capdevielle reads Dennis Cooper text in French in a nefarious voice that’s also been modulated in a such a way that it’s equally creepy and absurd. It’s a tough sell, and as a result I usually end up turning V off by the time Capdevielle gets started. Still, my preference against spoken word aside, V is an excellent album, surprisingly restrained and mannered considering the players — tense and controlled, highly recommended.

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