Instrumental bands, a bit of a turn off? A group who just cannot find a decent singer? A bit of a hipster fad from a band trying desperately to be in vogue? Well yes and no as so many get it wrong and I agree that a lot of the time the only instrumental music worth listening to is classical, film soundtracks, ambient, noise and perhaps techno. Kong are different, for a start they are completely original and genre crossing and for another they have (with a bit of hiatus) been perfecting their craft for 25 years. The Dutch band have been signed to the likes of Peaceville, Music For Nations and Roadrunner so have proved their credentials admirably. After a break of seven years they resurfaced going it alone and recording in home studio with a new line up for 2009 album ‘What It Seems Is What You Get.’ With little fanfare or press attention I was suddenly surprised to receive an email from their one remaining founding member Mark Drillich inviting me to download the album (due for release today June 22nd). Of course I grabbed the opportunity and note that not even Metal Archives have information on this. Low key or what?
Despite three quarters of the band being newish recruits the album’s opening track ‘El Pilar’ has their classic and instantly identifiable sound coursing through it. This has a massive layer of groove and bounds away with infectious melody like a massive uncoiling spring. Chugging away like a rally car bouncing over hills and with some mind bending effects you are instantly in the zone with this, shit eating grin on face as you marvel at the instrumental prowess. It should be noted that if you ever get the chance to see the band live they play in four separate corners of the stage and here you can clearly identify bass, drums and two guitarists in perfect harmony with each other. It makes you wonder how a band chooses names to songs when they are instrumental and there are some imaginative descriptors here. ‘Astral Calls’ is a bit of a wild space chase the sort Hawkwind or Ozric Tentacles and Eat Static would be proud of. There is also some grating noise that is very violin sounding here and it reminds a bit of someone else far removed, Igor Stravinsky no less. This is an excellent track and it is full of life and must be amazing live especially if it has a light show to go with it. You can imagine a big truck tearing down the highway to ‘Steamtrucking’, you wouldn’t want it rolling over and crushing you, this is a case of get out the way, monster coming through. Again there are some neat wibs and wobs coming out the speakers giving the heavyset musicianship a stoned sort of vibe.
At times things are very trippy here, it’s a bit like wandering around Holland after imbibing some particularly potent white widow. This is particularly the case on ‘Same Meaning Different Worlds’ and I am heavily reminded of The Orb and possibly Astralasia as this takes us on a voyage around the edge of the galaxy. Once the guitars kick in it takes you straight off into another dimension, great stuff! ‘Stug’ is a bit of a thug, with some bruising guitar work pushing everything out the way like a bit of a bully, still the progressive twists and turns of the track get through and this like the rest of the album is best heard as loud as possible!
The eleven track hour long album does a really good job keeping you on your toes, no two tracks are alike and it keeps you guessing what is coming next. The biggest surprise comes for the last track which follows the Monster Magnet etched groove guitar work of .Blue Couch’ We swing ‘Back Into The Trees’ as we get a down tools dubby number with spoken words! Yes words, listen to this one it’s a story and if that is not a big enough surprise as this expands we get singing. The vocals are not even a massive surprise but they are really good and harmonic too, reminding me a lot of Mike Patton. Who’d have thunk it? If you have not heard Kong before, get to it now and find out why they are the kings of progressive instrumental music.
(8/10 Pete Woods)