Record reviews: KMFDM, Skold vs. KMFDM.

Two KMFDM projects released practically on top of each other. We must have been very, very bad.


KMFDM, “Blitz” (Metropolis)

Hammered again: Sascha Konietzko always does the same thing differently. When you’re in the mood for electrobeat battery, it’s worth catching up with him, and “Blitz” maintains KMFDM’s 25 years of pressure.

There are a few good scares. The ugly midtempo grind, lobotomized metal riff and murky textures of “Potz Blitz!” (growled in German) make me think evil thoughts, which is always worthwhile. Konietzko mutters in Russian, too, on the monochromatic thrummer “Davai,” which features nylon-ripping slide from Jules Hodgson, one of the album’s three recordists/producers operating in icy electronic isolation (Hodgson in Seattle, Konietzko in Hamburg and longtime ally Tim Skold in L.A.). And if you assumed KMFDM would disdain out of principle to cover Human League, they stick a high-voltage limb-jerking version of the 1978 groundbreaker “Being Boiled” in your ear, complete with a lush ‘70s keyboard solo.

And then there’s the gold for which you rely on KMFDM. Like the galloping “Never Say Never,” which builds momentum till it can hurl you along on Lisa Cifarelli’s catchy aah-aah repetitions of the chorus. Or the concluding “Take’m Out,” a seven-minute solo workout that Konietzko crafted with special care, from its commanding dance rhythms to its dimensional sound fields, textural contrasts and arsenal of synth riffs. Or the straight four-on-the-floor urban feminist war cry “Strut,” a Donna Summerish Teutonic disco number that bursts with soul thanks to the way returning auxiliary singer Cheryl Wilson bolsters Cifarelli’s translucent voice.

The lyrics contain one awkwardly funny blurt: Since the 1999 Columbine killers were KMFDM fans, somebody feels compelled to undermine the title “Me & My Gun” by making Cifarelli sing, “It ain’t cool to shoot up your school.” Otherwise, the words stick mostly to Konietzko’s trademark apocalyptic sarcasm, negativistic subversion and even self-subversion: “We are bitches for your riches.” The symbol used for the cheerful destructo-hop introductory track stands for “Up Uranus.”

Same to you, commie. And good work.


“Skold vs. KMFDM” (KMFDM)

Tim Skold and Sascha Konietzko unite for a duo project. Or rather, they don’t unite, they send tracks back and forth from 5,000 miles’ distance: “Two together, worlds apart,” as the classic bippity Euro-pump opener, “Why Me,” puts it.

Which might be a good way of avoiding that contempt proverbially bred by familiarity. Skold reunites with the KMFDM family after several years with Marilyn Manson; maybe Skold and Manson made the mistake of in-person collaboration.

Well, you can take Skold out of Manson, but you can’t take Manson out of Skold. The two influenced each other -- the structures of “Love Is Like” and “It’s Not What” have moody counterparts in the music Skold wrote for Manson’s great 2007 album, “Eat Me Drink Me.” On many more occasions, though, Skold’s vocals echo Manson’s low exhalations, right down to the heavy breathing at the end of phrases. And Manson was influenced by Konietzko. And both Manson and KMFDM were scapegoated for Columbine. But now I’m getting confused.

“Skold vs. KMFDM” is a most artful effort. It’s got 11 main songs, with 11 mostly instrumental one-minute interludes of noise, fog and blip shuffled between, each with a title mirroring its longer twin. And the interlude titles have backward letters. And the back and front covers have opposite points of view. But I’m getting confused again.

The point is that it makes for an excellent continuous listen. Skold’s proud, human, sometimes pompous vocals alternate well with Konietzko’s skulking crypt whisper, and the contrast between the beatier tracks and the driftier ones takes you on an invigorating voyage over rolling seas. Aside from the ironic mechanical polka of “Why Me” and “Bloodsport,” the drum programming often pushes outside standard KMFDM boundaries -- inventively accented on “Love Is Like,” abstract (with effective stereo shivers) on “A Common Enemy.” For hooks both sythetic and vocal, try the depressed plod-ballad “Error 404.” And Skold indirectly celebrates his time with Manson via the thudding, itching “Alkohol”: “Let’s get basted, shitfaced, wasted,” he drools. “Revel in your own demise.”

This one has depth; fall in.

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