Album Review: KEN mode – “Loved”
Posted: by The Editor
The JUNO award winning KEN mode, a noise band from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada has released their seventh and most ferocious album to date. LOVED is as vicious as the album art indicates–It’s a visceral reaction to the state that our world is in specifically from a political and media standpoint, crafting a dystopian universe to it both sonically and lyrically.
KEN mode have built up a reputation of consistently crafting inconstant music, and being perfectly content with doing so on their own terms. The trio has superbly constructed a bridge between extreme metal and noise rock–building off their previous release, the Steve Albini (you know from Shellac, worked with Nirvana, Neurosis, Jawbreaker, and others) produced Success, which was a triumph in the noise rock genre. The album was an ironic take on what it means to be successful, all the while channeling The Jesus Lizard as if they were fronted by Henry Rollins (KEN mode got their name from Rollins’ mantra when touring with Black Flag coining ‘Kill Everyone Now Mode’)
For LOVED the trio consisting of the brothers Matthewson; Jesse (guitar, vocals) Shane (drums) and Scott Hamilton (bass) worked with Andrew Schneider (who’s produced albums from Cave In, Unsane, Old Man Gloom) a producer of note in heavier and more experimental styles of music. The consummation is a move away from noise/indie punk as they swivel and embrace the heavier side of their earlier releases, this time dredging further into the soggy and sludgy. Hamilton makes the most of his second album with the band by laying down brutal and beefy basslines. As for Jesse and Shane, they continue their mastery of substantially distorted odd time signature pervaded instrumentation. The usage of a saxophone, which is first heard on “The Illusion of Dignity” adds a jazz element to the beautiful chaos they have made. A standout track that incorporates the sax is the Fugazi-esque “This is a Love Test”, creating an almost nightmarish film noir mood. Similarly, the closing track “No Gentle Art” features an almost hypnotic muzzled clarinet segment, a sinister note to close on.
The album opens with the line “He’s a natural smiler; not all the memories were bad/Harsh words, with hard consonants” delivered in a relatively hushed angsty manner. “It’s never as bad as you think/ but it’s always the worst it’s been.” With the political climate being what it is and has been for a few years now, it’s apparent that the album cover and lyrics such as these are a representation of what it is like to be a functioning member of society in these times. When it comes to issues, both sides seem to have a hypersensitive reaction and the media surely manufactures as well as feeds on those reactions. LOVED is a brilliantly brutal exploration of the gloom indistinguishable to that sinister smile.
Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal
KEN mode recently released tour dates, their first tour since 2015.
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