Ke/Hil – Zone O LP Tesco Organisation 2015
When approaching this review I quickly revisited the debut ‘Hellstation’ album from 2010 which I remembered to be a strong if not relatively straightforward album, but something more of a side note to the members’ Brigant Moloch & Wilhelm Herich main activities in Genocide Organ. Noting this re-listening confirmed my impressions of it also functioned to highlight the forward leap demonstrated on ‘Zone O’ which has substantial honed the bleak and oppressive, vaguely industrial atmospheres found on ‘Hellstation’. Essentially there feels to be a greater depth and complexity at play on ‘Zone O’ which sits more within a ‘heavy electronics’ vein given the tonal structures never pushes into harsher industrial or power electronics realms. Intriguingly the artwork of ‘Zone O’ with its reference to ‘Hellstation’ on the map based artwork seems to be building a particular concept, perhaps based of the failings of contemporary based social engineering.
The opening track ‘Work’ hits hard with its complex layering (artillery fire pulse and throbbing synths), where the spoken vocals are of a emotionless authoritarian style. ‘Church’ opts for a shuddering/ wavering tonal soundscape of muted synths and non-invasive distortion, as sampled solo choir vocals bleed into the mix to give a maudlin edge. ‘Poverty’ is a touch more rhythmic, with a muted pounding tone, wavering synths and slightly treated spoken vocals, whilst ‘Passages’ opts for a more subtle subterranean styled atmosphere of dour synth drones and subtle static shifts. This is followed by the shuffling and lurching synth textures, interweaving muted static and of ‘Bridges’ makes for an excellent ending to the first side of the LP.
Side B opens with the rather forceful ‘Infirmary Anthem’; a track of pulsing tones and queasy oscillating synths, with cyclic incursions of mid-range distortion, and when this structure is considered alongside its echoed tinged spoken vocals it is the closest that Ke/Hil have come to date of sounding like Anenzephalia. A structured rhythmic approach returns on ‘Ghosts of a Common Past’, including a central mid-paced pounding programmed beats, swirling industrial tinged soundscape, whilst ‘Children of the ‘Devolution’ steps off in another direction, featuring tensile soundscape of sub-orchestral sonic elements and distant aggressive crowd noise; with the vocals providing an apathetic proclamation of intent.
Where ‘Zone 0’ excels is in its articulation a heavy and oppressive atmosphere; one with a feel of covert surveillance and a sense of deep-seated paranoia of industrialized ‘Kafkaesque’ proportions. Noting that both members of Ke/Hil have previously functioned under the Anenzephalia banner but with that project currently on ice, perhaps this is the reason for the create step up displayed on ‘Zone 0’. Regardless of the reasons of ‘why’, if you perhaps like me were not totally blown away by the debut ‘Hellstation’, this second albums is an entirely different proposition. If it wasn’t already apparent from the above – this is a great album.