The KVB, duo Nicholas Wood and Kat Day, sit comfortably at the more challenging end of the musical spectrum – a wing occupied by the likes of Suicide, Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine. The pair have created a style that aligns with the framework of these bands, and yet is individual enough to merit its own acclaim. Intricate yet subtle, atonal yet ethereal, challenging yet anthemic.
Having recently relocated from London to Berlin, they have found a kindred spirit in the form of Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe, working in his Berlin studio and releasing music on his A Recordings label. From it, they’ve uncovered a rejuvenated creative freedom.
Latest release Out of Body finds The KVB at their most direct, functioning with precision and uncompromising in their approach. Production-wise it’s lavish noir, each individual texture is carefully fine-tuned, building momentum through a layering which unites in diffused ambiance to form a serene cohesion.
A brutality manifests itself through amorphous, barbed guitar, twisting and turning on a sinuous trail, affecting all in it’s wake. Amidst a fury of ominously nomadic distortion Motorik rhythms remain grounded, guided by pulsating synth harbouring a driving momentum. Drum skins tighten under ice-cold drones, retracting as exquisite washes of sound eclipse before ultimately crashing with tsunami force upon the dense soundscape, further impurifying the murky waters.
Given the complexity of sound, they could be forgiven for the odd blemish or two. But they manage to build without fracture, the only lapse in their relentless surge forming as carefully placed apertures – when less-is-more really works it’s pretty breathtaking. A penchant for sensory exploration is realised within Day’s visuals which fall into context when adjacent to the partnering sound.
Minimalist in structure, maximalist in texture, the full experience inhabits a serene space. Layer upon layer it encourages a movement and fluidity which aptly showcases their aptitude for creating coherence amidst disparity.
Alex James Taylor: You recently made the move from London to Berlin, what were the reasons behind this?
Kat Day: The decision was made at the beginning of the year and had been something we had always talked about doing with our friends who already lived there. I had lived in South London for almost five years and had felt disheartened by the ever increasing costs of living in an over saturated city. Berlin is a city that is extremely easy to lose yourself in (and lose a few days in the process) but it has the space, atmosphere and cheaper rent that we desired. Although it hasn’t been an easy process adapting to a new city, our quality of life is infinitely better.
AT: A German Krautrock/Neue Deutsche Welle influence is very evident within your sound. Did it’s musical heritage impact on your decision to move?
Nicholas Wood: Not particularly, Berlin is very different from the rest of Germany. And although Krautrock is a big influence on our sound, we are perhaps more drawn to the current art and music scene in which we have lots of friends working in different mediums and styles etc. Perhaps more so within the Electronic/Minimal Wave/Dark/Techno realm than Krautrock, although that influence still exists quite strongly here.
AT: Is it re-energising having all new surroundings to draw inspiration from?
KD: Time seems to move differently here. Writing is done in the same way as before: separated from the world but spread out across one East German Alt Bau studio space rather than a tiny corner of a South London live-work warehouse unit! We haven’t lived here that long, so its hard to say at the moment how the surroundings have influenced us, but we already feel so much more positive with our experimentations. Places we have travelled to and lived in have always influenced our work, and with the harsh Berliner winter looming, it will no doubt impose a kind of creative hibernation.
AT: So when you started did you have a distinct sound in mind or has it evolved and grown over time?
NW: It came with time, the original demos were initially written as ideas for a band I was playing in at the time, but I became more and more drawn into the freedom I had working on the tracks and the sound I was creating. It started originally with a more minimal, stripped down aesthetic but has gradually become more textured with more dynamics whilst still retaining some of the signature lo-fi rawness.
AT: You’re currently releasing music on Anton Newcombe’s record label A Recordings, how has it been working with him?
KD: Well he’s a very interesting, hardworking man! Our paths don’t cross much, he does his thing and we do ours…. a part from when we were very kindly invited to support The BJM on their Australia tour last December. It was an incredible, strange experience for which we are grateful.
AT: This is the first time you’ve recorded outside of your home studio, did you record it yourselves still?
NW: Yes, it was just the two of us and Fabien Lesure (the sound engineer at A Recordings Studio). On one of the days, Joe Dilworth contributed drums to the six tracks which were later reprocessed to retain the machine-like aesthetic of our previous work. It was quite a challenging experience for us, working so closely with someone else for the first time.
AT: Do you find the creative freedom of recording your own music essential to your sound?
NW: Absolutely, you cant force it and the best work (for us) seems to stem from this spontaneity, whatever time of day or night. Working on our other side project ‘Burma Camp’ also helps maintain the flow and conjure up new approaches and ideas for unfinished songs.
AT: And when recording do you prefer to do it sporadically or do you set yourself strict timeframes to be in the studio?
NW: Sporadically in short, intense bursts but these sessions are often dictated by our tour schedule. I prefer not to overwork ideas, and let them form naturally as they can easily lose their original ‘spirit’.
AT: Your live performance integrates visuals alongside the music, do you create those yourself?
KD: Yes I do. More recently I have been working again with videos created entirely digitally using self-taught game engines and 3D modelling programmes.
AT: How do they link to your music?
KD: The visuals are designed to work in collaboration with different elements within the music, for example the aggressive, reverb-laden guitar and hypnotic allure of the synths are enhanced by the visuals flux between slow, tactile 3D images that ‘stroke’ your eyeballs, to visually jarring, flickers of glitch that attack the retina’s and transforms brain waves of the viewer. All of which intensifies the immersive nature of our performances – the bigger or more screens the better!
AT: Do you see your live shows as a form of performance art, as an extension of your aesthetic?
KD: I’m not sure, technically it might be, but i just haven’t thought about it in that way as I don’t see myself as an ‘actor’. I would prefer to describe it more as a ephemeral experience which intends to manipulate conscious experience via sensory inputs.
AT: You have just released an EP, Out of Body. Is this a precursor to an LP?
NW: It’s very much a stand alone release and was the result of an invitation to record for a week at Anton Newcombe’s studio in Berlin last year.
AT: Do you do your own cover art too?
KD: Yes, I come from an art background though not graphic design, as I previously studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths and specialised in time based media and interactive works. The cover was a still from a video I shot but was reprocessed several times to achieve the tactile aesthetic I have been developing for the past year. I love to feed imagery through the bodies of different machines and this ingestion / spitting out again process leaves beautiful errors and glitches which have such great, haptic material qualities for what is essentially immaterial data.
AT: Do you have a plan for your next release or do you simply take it as it comes?
KD: We have a lot of demos ready. we want the next LP to show more of our electronic/experimental side than Out of Body but also still retain some of its pop edge. we’re hoping for it to come out in the first half of next year, but also have plans to put something else out first.
Out of Body is out now on A Recordings