Relentless, gut-punching, haunting. These are the terms that came to mind while listen to KEN Mode’s newest record, Loved.
The Winnipeg noise-rock outlet’s newest offering somehow finds a way to bite even harder than its predecessors – 2015’s Steve Albini-produced Blessed and 2013’s Entrench, which was longlisted for that year’s Polaris Music Prize.
Everything is cranked to 11 on Loved. Amplifiers are louder and crunchier as strings and drums are hit harder. Vocalist Jesse Matthewson is angrier and more maniacal than ever before.
The vitriolic anger can be heard in Matthewson’s voice during his bone-chilling speech that introduces the track “Feathers & Lips:” “...I’m filled with this overwhelming instinct that I can break you: shredded ligaments, bone by bone.”
The lyricism on Loved will make anyone feel uneasy and nervous. An intentional feeling, considering the album cover – a portrait of an almost fully blacked-out figure outside of its wide, glaring eyes and an unsettling grin displaying its crooked white teeth.
On top of that, the addition of a saxophone (performed by Kathryn Kerr of Tansy) on tracks “The Illusion of Dignity,” “This is a Love Test” and “No Gentle Art” help make these songs sound fully unhinged, maniacal and downright spooky. It’s as if the inclusion of this instrument is reflective of the presence of the figure on the cover.
KEN Mode are as relentless and unforgiving as they’ve ever been. Loved isn’t just a punch to the gut. It bites deep and screams loud enough to leave you frozen in fear, just to make sure you remember its haunting face.
by Daniel Kussy
Published in Volume 73, Number 8 of The Uniter (November 1, 2018)