Album review: KEN mode – VOID

Noisy Canadian art-punks KEN mode follow anger with something sadder on VOID, the companion piece to last year’s NULL.

Album review: KEN mode – VOID
Nick Ruskell

Last September, Canadian noise-punks KEN mode released NULL, their eighth album. One day shy of a full year on, we have VOID (see what they did there?), their ninth full-length, recorded at the same time and intended as a companion to its predecessor. Both sound unmistakably like KEN mode, but for two albums done at the same time, the differences in tone and intent are clear and striking.

The older of the two boiled with an attacking rage, a musical violence, but here, though still barbed and spikey, there’s also a sighing sense of anguish. Channelled through KEN mode’s ingenious, angular punky noise, it’s a nevertheless caustic reflection of a world that isn’t getting any better.

Opener The Shrike, with its core of a relentless, one-note riff that explodes into shards, and the raging, atonal Painless start things with fists swinging, but on These Wires things take a darker, more introspective, minor-key turn that remains for the duration. We’re Small Enough mixes an almost Smashing Pumpkins-ish pointy bassline with atmospheric organ, while I Cannot’s heaviness continually collapses back into hanging, sharp open notes and the sort of non-melodic guitar melodies you’d expect from Steve Albini. And while the title of closer Not Today, Old Friend may raise a smile among Simpsons aficionados, its cynical voiceover, lazy piano and grudging vibe suggest that it could very well be today, and they haven’t got any friends to tell about it.

Taken individually, both NULL and VOID are brilliant albums from a collective who understand music’s role as a vessel for emotional articulacy. Put them together, and they are creatively anything but their combined title, while also somehow perfectly expressing a feeling of being both. The full thing is a hell of a trip, where you’ll definitely feel a sense of catharsis, but not necessarily much better. A perfect pairing from a genuinely unique band.

Verdict: 4/5

For fans of: Converge, Drive Like Jehu, Mogwai

VOID is out now via Artoffact

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