Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Album Review: Kontakte - We Move Through Negative Spaces

Making a significant departure in your sound from bands with more renown is a difficult task for those riding the undercurrent of the music industry. Why should listeners pay attention to a lesser version of one band when a better discography rests at their fingertips? Given Kontakte’s similarity to their peers, it’s a problem that We Move Through Negative Spaces manages to frequently fall victim to. Its swirling hues of calm, winter-sensibilities mix Kontakte's electronic side ala The American Dollar with post-rock in the vein of This Will Destroy You. While those comparisons may raise eyebrows and pique interests, Kontakte fails to capitalize on the right aspects to make the influences truly successful. This sophomore release may not make waves of differentiation and lasting impression, but for what it lacks in ingenuity it provides in promise within the later, and more impressive half of the album.

We Move Through Negative Spaces begins rather harmlessly with “Astralagus.” The introduction piece suffers from having the aforementioned issue of feeling too similar to Kontakte’s contemporaries and fails to give the band a positive first foot forward. The soothing aura that rises around the beats accentuates the arrival of the guitar work, but the overall effort falls flat when compared to the stronger work that awaits the listener later in We Move Through Negative Spaces. The ascensions of “Hope” happen to be Kontakte’s next stumble, as they don’t seem to exist naturally with the context of the song as much as they aspire to painfully force out Kontakte’s louder post-rock influences. Kontakte concurrent exhibition of calm and excitement in their beginning clashes as their sound best succeeds when the album flows at a naturally quieter pace.

Once the thoughtful bass line of “With Glowing Hearts” begins, We Move Through Negative Spaces begins to heartily redeem itself. While the guitar work itself harkens back to Explosion In The Sky’s How Strange, Innocence, the song is the aural equivalent of my favorite winter day: thoughtful, peaceful, and delightful to experience. These moments of clarity define Kontakte’s strength, another example being the somber start of the ten minute opus “The Ocean Between You And Me,” and the stark contrast between the key work and programming within “The Owls Won’t See Us In Here.” Unfortunately, no matter how easy it becomes to ordain a healthy amount of praise toward Kontakte’s better half, We Move Through Negative Spaces and its stumbles are just too much for a few brief moments of beautiful minimalism to save it from its tedium and inability to separate itself from similar sounds.

Kontakte were said to have written We Move Through Negative Spaces in the heart of winter, and for the most part that quiet sense of a bleak, yet peaceful and thoughtful environment is present within the redeemable moments of the album. The reprieves of guitar simplicity and healthy amounts of intelligently layered electronic beats are what most listeners will want to come to We Move Through Negative Spaces for, and it's a direction I hope Kontakte decides to take further in their future work. While the positive side of the record may symbolize the wonders of winter, the tracks that cause the album to suffer are more reminiscent of the days when you’re tired of the snow, exhausted from seeing the same pile of white that has glazed the entire town around you. It’s unfortunate to see such a beautiful season cast its goodbye, but like the listeners of We Move Through Negative Spaces will be wishing for something more fresh, even the most avid fans of winter are eventually in need of the refreshing, warm glow of another season.

Track Listing:
  1. Astralagus
  2. Hope...
  3. With Glowing Hearts
  4. Early Evening Bleeds Into Night
  5. A Snowflake In Her Hand
  6. The Owls Won't See Us In Here
  7. Every Passing Hour
  8. The Ocean Between You And Me
Buy it here.

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