KMFDM – Let Go

It’s hard to believe that the release of ‘Let Go’ ties in with KMFDM’s 40th anniversary. In some ways, it’s just as hard to believe that this record comes a whole decade after the brilliant ‘Kunst’, which at the time of this release, still felt like a recent work. No matter how much time passes, though, there are few things as reliable as a new album from Sasha ‘Käpt’n K’ Konietzko and his team. Fans know that a KMFDM record will give them pretty much what they’d hope for, and occasionally more…and that’s very much the case with this disc. Even after four decades on the road, on the bulk of ‘Let Go’, the KMFDM machine shows no sign of burnout.

Following a slow spoken word build up, ‘Push!’ immediately becomes a stand out track due to a sharp, danceable rhythm, which contrasted with hard edged guitar chords, settles into a groove that’s immediately recognisable as something from the KMFDM stable. There isn’t much of a chorus – K merely drops the title into the chugging groove, but in terms of actual song, it’s still pretty huge with long time collaborator Lucia Cifarelli taking a dominant role. Her sharp yet melodic alt-rock vocal really holds everything together, and by adding extra repetitive hooks via slogan-like phrasing (with “rise above” and “get your mind fucked” immediately jumping out as classic KMFDM), this track’s lack of big chorus isn’t quite as obvious. With a jagged lead guitar filling space during the latter part of an already great track, it becomes a busy four minutes that holds up against pretty much anything from the band’s latter-day back-cat.

Loaded with a rhythm that harks back to the 90s drum ‘n’ bass scene, the bizarrely titled ‘Totem E. Eggs’ actually sounds like a ready made remix of an older track, and with the huge beats joined by a loudly whispered vocal and sinister croon, it appears to wedge a lot of the band’s best traits into a fairly relentless workout. It’ll be hard to draw your ears away from the pre-programmed elements, but drummer Andy Selway is putting in some equally hard yards on the “live kit”, really giving KMFDM that important muscle so many other electronic based bands lack, and a few almost bluesy guitar leads creeping through the layered sound also add a few great flourishes which make the arrangement feel well balanced. Exploring more of an 80s feel via bright synths, ‘Erikonig’ contrasts an accessible melody with abrasive beats and a German lyric. With guitarist Andee Blacksugar dropping in metal based riffs along the way, the music shares a predictable but strong hybrid sound, but its a reminder of how even an on “autopilot” KMFDM can still deliver. This track hits hard from the outset, and as with ‘Totem’, the marriage of programmed loops and live drums offers the material a genuine kick, and the very mechanical ‘Turn The Light On’ adds to the strong material with a great mix of samples, hard electronic drones and occasional waves of guitar, quickly building something that sounds like classic KMFDM. Predictable as the music may be, a simple hook is in place to ensure the track becomes catchy in record time; a techy sounding guitar adds a few more interesting sounds and leads that are vaguely tinged by bluesier tones, while a quick nod to New Order sets everything off with a brilliantly knowing wink.

Opting for something far more melodic, ‘Touch’ opens with a blast of very 80s sounding synth, and quickly becomes a great slice of EDM with a very retro heart. The more atonal quirks are very KMFDM – as you’d expect – but the pop-ish melodies contrasting with darker blankets of sound owe more to the likes of Metric, and naturally, the early Nine Inch Nails in a more reflective mood. A sultry vocal brings more of an unexpected melodic edge throughout, but this is another track that very quickly suggests ‘Let Go’ might just be the best KMFDM album since 2014’s more abrasive ‘Our Time Will Come’. Also relatively poppy, ‘Airhead’ works a sound that with a little imagination could be likened to an angrier Garbage, such is its perfect blend of chiming rhythms, melodic vocals and electronic heartbeat. It doesn’t convey the same sense of drive as ‘Push!”, and won’t necessarily sound like KMFDM to the more casual ear, but its combination of 90s influenced sounds and another great melody ensures that fans of the style will have plenty to enjoy. With the help of another superb Lucia vocal, it’s certainly another album highlight.

A brilliant re-working of 2003’s ‘WWIII’, now given the moniker ‘WW 2023’ also moves away from the heavier dance beats, and instead, latches onto a mid paced rhythm over which dub reggae basslines weave a dark groove, and echoed voices and moody trombone hooks owe more to fare from the Front Line record label than industrial sounds. There’s plenty here to link it to the KMFDM catalogue, of course. Not only are some of the lyrics recycled, but there’s Konietzko’s vocal – dropping into a recognisable, yet disquieting grumble throughout; a whole bunch of newsreel samples delivering a political edge with the subtlety of a mallet, and an abrasive guitar chug lending an occasional industrial flavour. Musically, this is a world way from its full throttle Ministry-esque forerunner, but it’s actually better. The slow approach makes the lyric and its delivery feel far more pointed and sinister. In terms of this album’s material, this number is definitely more of a slow burner, but it’s great in its own way. Although the vocal occasionally gets in the way of a sizeable groove, Konietzko’s bass work is absolutely immense and really makes the track.

On top of all of that great material, the title cut mixes the industrial heart with a hard rock guitar sound, and even drops in an unashamed element of classic disco. The 70s synths and electronic drum sounds during the intro are massively retro, but as the track finds its feet, a crunchy guitar and punchy rhythm hold up against the very best of the band’s sounds over the past decade. The infectious heart of a great number pounds throughout; whether you’re attracted to the big beat, fuzzy rock guitars, or the hint of funk during the instrumental break that gives an unexpected nod to Electric Six via its very distinctive rhythm guitar part, enjoyment is guaranteed. It’s still very much the sound of KMFDM in full flow, but there’s also something about this that feels a little more fun. As one of the scene’s elder statesman, Konietzko has very much earned the right to, perhaps, be a little more carefree with his art by 2024 – and here, it really shows. This, on an album that isn’t shy of strong material, is a superb tune.

Long serving fans will pick up this album, regardless of any reviews – good, bad or indifferent – but their loyalty is more than rewarded here. Long after Trent Reznor has forgotten how to write any memorable songs – it’s been an eternity since ‘The Perfect Drug’ was released as a single – Konietzko continues to excite with a heady combo of danceable sounds, angry vibes and catchy, almost slogan-like chorus hooks. Despite being a little more pop-driven in a couple of places, at least five of the tracks are top tier KMFDM. Granted, bits of the album sound very like other stuff you’ve heard on other releases from the band post-2003, but that brings its own charm. Few bands could deliver something as strong as this, after already having over twenty studio albums to their credit. Buy it, crank it, let yourself go – hefty electronica rarely felt so good.

January 2024