“Why would people want to listen to Salem”, asked professional whiner and self-appointed “last rock critic standing” Christopher Weingarten last year, “when there are hundreds of bands doing the same thing but better?” (we’re paraphrasing slightly – he used more swearwords).
The Finnish doom-dance trio K-X-P were one of the bands included on Weingarten’s Anti-Witch House mixtape, and tonight they do everything in their power to show why everybody with an interest in gargling, tribal electronica should look to them for guidance. They look like you’d imagine veteran Scandinavian musicians to look like – slightly gaunt and a tad withdrawn (the drummer is wearing a dark cape with a hood throughout the gig). Bassist Tuomo Puranan is the scariest-looking out of all three. He resembles a cross between noughties-era Iggy Pop and the female lead in a granny porn flick, and whenever he looks directly at us we gratefully shuffle in behind the tall guy to our left. Frontman (and producer/songwriter) Timo Kaukolampi, wearing a sleeveless black metal T-Shirt, cuts a more huggable figure: his dancing is endearingly uncoordinated, and his fist-pumps whenever the bass kicks in betray an enthusiasm that slowly but surely carries over to the crowd.
K-X-P’s sound mixes elements of German Krautrock – the merciless, trance-inducing motorik beats – with Euro disco beats and keys, and the result is a bulldozing brand of industrial dance music that develops a life of its own as it pounds on beyond the 6-minute-mark without ever becoming boring. ‘Elephant Man’ starts off almost jazzy, its bassline bouncing around the upstairs room like a gum ball, but before long there are cascades of synth noise doing battle with ritualistic drums, and you find yourself nervously sipping half your beer in 5 seconds because it all just gets TOO MUCH. Too much awesome, that is.
‘Mehu Moments’ is a long, hard comedown of a song, spitting smoke and uncomfortable near-silence, and shows that, for all of their danceability and exuberance, K-X-P have an undying allegiance with the dark.
The driving, punk rock infused ‘Pockets’ is another highlight in a set that, at about 45 minutes, is free of baggage but full of bullish energy. Whoever still listens to Salem after seeing this gig – we pity you.