In their sophomore effort, British quartet kontakte provide a natural continuation of their still-developing sound. We Move Through Negative Spaces features the infusion of electronic elements and the spacious grace of post-rock, the sound that 65daysofstatic laid the blueprint for in The Fall of Math and that bands like The American Dollar and 52 Commercial Road continue to extrapolate today.
In terms of sound output, kontakte lean more towards the calmer end of the postrocktronic spectrum. Their overdrive and distortion pedals are switched on in only a couple of tracks, with the rest of the album formulated by meandering guitar melodies superimposed over steady electronic beats. This same description could be applied to many bands; the repetition of melody and the languid manner in which the songs evolve, bloom, and evoke emotion is something we have all come to know by heart. Yet kontakte very rarely resort to the quiet/loud dynamic, not needing over-the-top crescendos to support their narrative.
The edge that We Move through Negative Spaces has over other kindred albums is its endless supply of melodies. Almost every melody is memorable, which is in itself a triumph. “Hope” uses a huge wall of distorted background guitars to set the scene for the softer foreground guitars. The highs last only a few moments, and the lows carry the remainder. The buildups and breakdowns are sewn together so naturally that one can’t help but gasp whenever a change from quiet to loud occurs. In contrast, “The Ocean Between You and Me” climaxes on a notable high, ending the album with all guitars blazing.
The clear standout on the album is “A Snowflake in her Hand”, which is so strong that it can reestablish one’s lost love for the genre. The track is a reminder that post-rock, instrumental, alternative-silent-monochromatic weeble wabble, or whatever anyone would like to call it has the ability to pierce with a simple progression and to change one’s mood for the remainder of the day. “A Snowflake…” is simplicity incarnate. The leading line could remain on repeat forever, and few would mind. The entrances of the strings and repeating glitch beat elevate the track to the realm of the epic. When executed this well, subtlety is a beautiful thing.
The album is cut short only by the lack of acoustic drums. In most tracks this is not a problem, but when things start getting louder, the lack of drums seems pivotal. To quote fellow writer Richard Allen, “there’s nothing like a real drummer to anchor a post-rock band. A crescendo with digital percussion is much less cathartic than one with snares and cymbals.” The statement rings particularly true in this case.
kontakte have all it takes to rival the top bands in the genre. Their main challenge is their tardy entrance to the scene, which risks the tag of redundancy to those well versed in the territory. My advice to listeners: take your time with this album, and give it a couple of listens. While the whole thing might not remain on one’s playlist for long, a few powerful tracks will likely stay there for good.