After four records of sharpening the knives of noise from an almost metal point of view, Stephen O’Malley and Peter Rehberg make some considerable changes on their new one. On “V”, their first album in four years, they avoid the formula and the coordinates set on their previous efforts, or rather, they soften and redefine them for a new take on noise. Here, the KTL project seems to have finally found the way they had been looking for, for so long, in order to evolve and grow. Interesting and revealing, too, how their set-up has changed (they even record in studios that are temples of electronic music), and how they made a jump forward in their method of terrorising the listener without the need for raising their voices or using more or less predictable means.
In fact, one of the key things that define this record's personality is the duo's ability to maintain the physical and emotional impact of their music in spite of the change of sonic tools and applications. The fact that KTL got rid of the most metal part of their sound could lead to the assumption that, in the process, their music has lost strength and appeal, but it hasn't. While it's true that their songs no longer draw on primary musical instincts driven by the remodelled (but very present) legacy of doom metal - those outbursts of irritated and ultra-violent noise - they now seek inspiration and references in dark ambient, avant-garde and minimalism. In a way, “V” is the album on which the project reaches adulthood, in the sense that the twosome dare to leave their comfort zone and step into unknown territory. It’s a trip towards a more complex and subtle world, while still keeping their magnetism and their sense of fear and violence.
Instead of doom metal, “V” has more in common with the dense and mournful modern classical sound of labels like Miasmah. For instance, it's no coincidence that they've established a connection with Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, who arranged the best of the five pieces on the LP: “Phill 2”, fifteen minutes going from less to more, during which O’Malley and Rehberg invoke Bryars, Köner and Eno from an apocalyptic, sordid and tenebrist viewpoint. It’s an immense and beautiful symphony of horror. And then there's the twenty minutes of “Last Spring: A Prequel”, a disturbing flirt with spoken word, on which KTL manipulate the voice of actor Jonathan Capdevielle reciting fragments from the play “Kindertotenlieder”, a collaboration between Dennis Cooper and Gisèle Vienne to which the duo put music, live on stage. During those absolutely fascinating moments - especially when the voice gets twisted and sounds as if it were possessed - the music becomes a unique redefinition of black metal, without guitars or raucousness; and that's possibly the biggest compliment for an effort that is already one of the most serious in the genre this year.