Passive/Aggressive

Kætø – Teasing the means of production

English Kritik February 18 2019

Kætø ”Poppers and Rotation – Processen” (self-released, 2019) – review by Wieland Rambke

Pop music as a phenomenon is both private and public. The daydreams that pop music evokes and communicates are inherently personal. A well-made pop song makes us feel that we stand in personal correspondence with the artist.

At the same time, this experience is shared with everyone that the song is singing to. It becomes part of the common life experience of people. Thus, it becomes public. Pop music is a personal mass phenomenon.

But while pop songs address our emotions, they are not themselves born out of emotion. They are manufactured in a process of constant evaluation and elimination. A pop song is engineered, it is planned, it is a product.

The term „product“ comes up again and again when Mathias Andersen and Kristoffer Rank Rasmussen talk about their electronic music project, Kætø. With their second release, titled „Poppers and Rotation – Processen“, they present the listener with their own take on the meaning of pop music: As a product of a system based on claimed ownership. So why not reclaim ownership?

References play a big role for the Aarhus-based group: The name Kætø is itself derived from a track by Danish experimental group Badun. With Badun, they share a free-floating, organic approach, transcribing the logics of free jazz to electronic music. And when Kætø start incorporating melodic lines from Beyoncé, they are implicitly asking the question of who owns the product of the pop-processing industry.

Celebrities are made by their admirers. Fans incorporate their favourite songs into their everyday lives, enriching them with their own personal stories. And even if you hate pop music, you can’t get away from it. It is impossible to partake in the modern world without being exposed to pop music.

Listening to „Poppers and Rotation – Processen“ is to experience constant change. Beats drip and rattle as melodies materialize. At times, the rhythms give in to their own momentum, leaving the melody as the sole stable element.

All this unfolds at a moderate tempo which always leaves the assembled elements room to breathe. And even in fragmentation, the interplay between the elements is always traceable. Chaos is not the goal of these „products“: Sometimes, the music seems to tip, but it never falls over. It starts to float before it could hit the ground.

The sounds themselves are clean, antiseptic almost. Just as chaos is not desired in these compositions, so is noise not a part of the sonic texture. Even during dense moments, all elements are discernible. A strong playfulness is at the heart of these arrangements, paired with a sense of harmony and balance.

Overall, the compositions are of a very organic and natural quality. Form is given mostly by the underlying concepts that serve as starting points and frames for the compositions. Here, the „product“ becomes another meaning: As the product of their experimental curiosity.

Mathias Andersen and Kristoffer Rank Rasmussen are both trained musicians and are well-versed in compositional techniques, utilising diverse methods such as 12-tone composition or non-western scale systems in their musical ventures. Theoretical considerations are often the starting point for a track.

But everything is always up for questioning, and this is where their humour comes into play. Indeed, humour permeates the entire release, from the choice of sounds to nicking pop melodies. There is not one grandiose gesture to be found here. Everything is carried by lightness. This makes for quite a refreshing listening experience that surprises constantly.

Info: ”Poppers and Rotation – Processen” was released in the beginning of February.