After a critically acclaimed 2010 debut that went largely unnoticed, K-X-P are back with II, a noteworthy, if not totally bizarre, follow-up. For those unfamiliar, the Helsinki quartet are a motley pack of progressive, experimental lone wolves who, when together, refer to themselves as an “anti-band.”
Anti- or not, II is an album that makes no if’s, and’s, or but’s about K-X-P’s unique musical thumbprint. The band seem to shun most contemporary trends and influences in favor of brazen, unabashed sound– wherever that sound may take them. There’s no blueprint for what K-X-P do, other than the fact that they’re trying to get our attention. Luckily for them, it’s working like a charm.
The dynamic bass and steady beat of “Melody” set the stage for a display of sheer power. “K-X-P!” the band members chant at the beginning of the track, just in case you’ve forgotten, or lost your album cover art. It’s an exuberant, new-wave tinged track that builds layer upon layer of heavy, blanketing synth, shimmery fuzz, and steady, assertive percussion (in fact, KXP features not one, but two drummers).
Needless to say, II takes more than a few unexpected twists and turns– from the dreamy and cinematic to the hardcore– making each track an exciting new discovery. The super-quick “Magnetic North” harnesses a stream-lined, danceable quality thanks to zooming synths and bursting bubbles of noise. And no, that’s not The Knife’s Karin Dreijer-Andersson, though the the gender-ambiguous vocals sure do sound a lot like her. Those are courtesy of frontman Timo Kaukolampi, a man whose charisma zips through each of II’s twelve tracks like lightning.
No matter what, be sure to stick around for album standout “Easy (Infinity Waits).” The delightful, dramatic track teeters dangerously on the edge of reason, criss-crossing light and dark until there’s nothing left but pure, fantastic fun. II may be an ambitious undertaking for K-X-P, but in the end, the reward outweighs the risk.
3 / 5 bars