It’s been a while since King Midas Sound graced our ears with some fresh material. While there was something of a stopgap from Hyperdub in the shape of the remix version of Waiting For You, it’s surprising to think that four years have passed since the trio of Kevin ‘The Bug’ Martin, Roger Robinson and Kiki Hitomi put together the heart-breaking collection of nourish lovers rock. Now a new single comes forth for Ninja Tune, and in true Kevin Martin style you can forget all previous form for KMS and start from scratch again.
“Aroo” marches out of the stocks on a rasping drum machine thump, pausing only ever so briefly like the undertow sucking back, before a tidal wave of fuzzy guitar, abrasive bass and piercing vocals from Hitomi comes crashing down around you. It’s the last angle you would expect from King Midas Sound based on their back catalogue, but it also makes a bizarre, chart-testing kind of sense. There’s no denying the anthemic quality to the chorus, sporting a pop sensibility that seems all the stronger when powered by Martin’s love of overdrive.
Don’t worry, this is no trade-off on what the group have previously stood for, as all the hallmarks are in place. The wall of noise has never been sturdier, Hitomi’s vocal never more striking, and when the bludgeoning chorus melts away it leaves an insecure serenity in which Robinson can deliver his heartbroken, breathless croon. However, the regimented spit of the beat tells you that the noise is only just around the corner, and true enough it comes back with full force. There’s an interesting refusal to adopt a typical verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure here, even as the track moves like a pop single should. Instead the chorus comes on first, ridden hard over and over, before dropping away to a verse that serves only to provide some temporary respite.
Once the shock has subsided, there’s a far more soothing tonic to be heard on the digital flipside in the form of “Funny Love”. If you needed proof of the schizophrenic nature of Kevin Martin’s music, this single would be it, moving from “Aroo”s gut-busting bombast to the most utterly subdued, soporific tones you could ever wish for. Of course, this is more familiar territory for those craving more of the sensuality that Waiting For You contained, but in truth it feels as though it overshoots the mellow nature of their previous work and enters a whole new peak of ambience. In a beatless space inhabited only by gently wailing synth drones, Hitomi and Robinson sing their paean to the complexities of affection, and without having to do barely a thing, the track completely arrests for its duration. Few would know where to start working distortion into romance, but if anyone is going to be able to, it’s Kevin Martin.
Of course, taking such decisive action to come from a new angle will always risk your existing audience, and for that King Midas Sound have to be applauded. All too often the temptation to keep people happy and play it safe has cost possible creative progression, and the stark new beast that King Midas have morphed into bodes tantalising new possibilities for the impending second album.
2. Funny Love