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lp / tarantula x records / 2012

lim. edition with insert

released back in the spring, the debut album fr.om former crystal
castles drummer cameron findlay’s project kontravoid has proven to be a
lot more rewarding than i would have given it credit for at first blush.
my initial impression – that although it has some good moments the lp
is kind of brief and homogenous – remain valid, but over multiple
listens the flaws seem less glaring, and the character of the record
more appealing. arriving in the form of punky-electro by way of early
post-industrial, kontravoid establishes its template, runs with it, and bails before it grows stale or wearisome.

one might be forgiven for expecting a more indie-electronic sound fr.om
kontravoid considering findlay’s pedigree (both in cc and toronto
synthpop act parallels), there’s a pleasingly classic sensibility to the
way the record’s songs are put together. an accurate touchpoint is the
pre-techno era of cabaret voltaire, the inflexible bassline and
reverbed, chiming synth sounds of “cut to cleanse” handily recalling the
sequencer-powered funk of “

“. that strict sense of construction is essential to kontravoid,
with the exception of the frenetic live drums on “age of descent” (a
song whose generous application of reverb plays as a sort of martin
hannet pastiche) everything feels locked to a grid. hell, even the
disaffected female vocals on the chirpy, upbeat “native state” are
delivered in the same lockstep as every instrument in the mix.

initially offputting, i think the narrowed palette of sounds employed
ends up serving as a counterpoint to the rigidity of the songs
themselves in some interesting ways. by keeping synthetic basses, pads
and leads similar but not indistinguishable the record starts to feel
almost like the work of a robotic band, with findlay fulfilling the
dual-roles of puppet-master and frontman. with the generous amounts of
echo and vocal processing applied to his singing acting as a corollary
to the black-masked image cultivated in photoshoots and videos, one
almost gets the sense that he’s trying to eradicate the man/machine gap
between his own performance and that of his instruments, a perfect
mechanical anonymity. inasmuch as it makes him fade into the background
on numbers like “forgotten”, when he allows some cracks to appear in the
impassive facade late in the record it has a striking effect; the
aggressive “killed in action” and the dreamy and sorrowful “dead eagles”
end up deconstructing the mechanization of the album with their human

kontravoid is still far fr.om a perfect album, but a
lot of its charm comes fr.om the ways in which it struggles against its
own limitations. even though i got a gross of bonus remixes and live
takes with my bandcamp download (the same ones that appear on the 2-cd
version of the album) i find myself more fond of listening to it in the
original 9-track iteration, the brevity and sameness throwing light on
how much it does manage to accomplish. it’s an engine of a record, and
one with a lot more under the hood than you might guess fr.om a cursory