Track by track: Kontakte: We Move Through Negative Spaces
by Bill Cummings – April 13, 2011
We Move Through Negative Spaces is the second studio album from London based noise experimentors Kontakte.
We Move Through Negative Spaces seeks to highlight Kontakte’s penchant for producing music of extreme highs and lows, this second album raises the bar in terms of songwriting, instrumentation and production.
Following live dates to promote their debut, Soundtracks To Lost Road Movies, the autumn of 2009 saw the band withdraw from live performances to focus on writing new material, which would become their second album. The winter of that year found them in hibernation, watching the snowfall outside and writing and recording between their home studios and rehearsal room. Zeroing in on the tiniest of detail, the long process involved meticulously recording and listening to hours of guitar layers, textures, beats, piano and strings. Winter became spring and in the summer of 2010 they emerged with 8 finished tracks. Each track was written with the others in mind with thought given to how each would sit next to the other and be heard, not separately, but as a collection of songs – a continuous hour of music.
To celebrate its release the band kindly guided us through their new long player track by track:
The opening track on the album was initially built from the beats upwards. A small loop was put through various delay and glitch processors, chopped up, reprocessed, looped again and then re-worked.
That in a nutshell is how a lot of our tracks can be constructed. It’s a continual method of trying things out until we get something we’re happy with. Once all the members give that knowing ‘nod’ in the rehearsal room, then we know we’re getting somewhere.
This was probably the first track we had written for the album. It was included in our live sets almost 2 years ago. In terms of the changing subtleties of the guitar melodies, the textures of sound and the sheer magnitude of power – it’s gets us closer to what we’re aiming for in terms of dynamics within a piece of music. It’s still an exciting track to play live, I think it will always be.
With Glowing Hearts :
There are certain moments when writing new music where everything just fits into place and you’re able to feel very confident about how things are developing. Moments like that are quite special and they start to set a tone for what’s ahead. It isn’t a myth that in some instances, music can seem to ‘write itself’. This track was one of those moments.
Early Evening Bleeds Into Night :
This started out as a very simple, melancholic piano piece. Further instruments and melodies were added, and it soon presented itself as a much bolder piece amongst the rest of the album tracks. Another example of where a piece of music can take itself if you simply allow it to. A fond memory of recording this would be on a freezing night in January and Ian having a ‘Phil Spector’ moment. Gary was to stand in a freezing hallway, shivering with gloves on playing the Glockenspiel – because the reverb ‘sounded right’ in there!
A Snowflake In Her Hand :
This is a possible signature track for us from the album. What started out as a series of guitar loops soon blossomed into something we’re very proud of.
The layering of the strings was quite important in terms of the production. It needed to lift in the right places and become something quite bold, as the track starts off in quite a fragile and brittle way. It’s a constructive method of using the same repeating patterns so that they become hypnotic and ethereal to the ear, whilst adding surrounding elements and textures in order to ‘build’ the track.
The Owls Won’t See Us In Here :
This again was a real melting pot in the rehearsal room. We have good memories of piecing all the different parts of this one together. We were conscious of this track not becoming a full blown guitar assault or even repeating the first heavier section again, which would have been quite easy and straightforward to do (but maybe very obvious to do?).
Again, the melodies at the end aim to pull you in whilst the beats begin to become more intense and engulf everything they are trying to hold together.
The method of splicing up pre-programmed beats was also used here.
In a same way that William Burroughs used to ‘cut-up’ his sentences and paragraphs and fix them all back together in a way that when read as a whole, they made some sort of sense – but individually they would seem completely fractured and nonsensical.
There is something quite creative and satisfying in destroying something you’ve written and then piecing it back together in a different way, it gives you results you may never have imagined initially.
Every Passing Hour :
The calm before the storm?
Our first album was definitely a case of us getting ‘something off our chest’ and that was heavily dependant at the time on jumping on distortion pedals. As a band unit we’ve felt a lot more comfortable in our skin this time round and that’s allowed us to try more things and be confident to experiment a lot further.
This track consists of a violin (double tracked), an acoustic guitar and a very distant synth line. Almost in an attempt to pull everything back to its roots to see if we could write something that is still effective and moving – but without it culminating into a sheer wall of noise.
The Ocean Between You And Me :
Which in turn brings us to the last track (ha!).
It might be the obvious closer for some but where else could it have sat on the album? The building tension of the album as a whole finally lets itself go at this point.
This track was quite a challenge when it came to the production. There is a lot going on here, maybe more than meets the ear initially. Trying to create a sense of balance between the plaintive movements of the first section and the dynamic shift of the intense outro.
What we have aimed to use to tie it all together is a continuous use of melody.
Amongst the noise and crescendo there is still melody in there. When listening you may have to work a bit to get to it, but it is in there, and for us the combination of noise – melody – texture – is what sits at the heart of KONTAKTE.