CD, Aentitainment, 2009
Perhaps better known in the metal scenes as Thee Maldoror Kollective, T/M/K have been around as band and collaborative project for over a decade under various variations of their name, perhaps as many as the changes in their music style. 2009 sees the return with “Need The Needle”, a new full-length on the German label Aentitainment, this time as Textbook of Modern Karate.
“Need the Needle” comes across as relatively easy to describe: a fluid hybrid of electro-jazz improvisation, ambient, world music bits, groovy experimentalism and wild sampling. It’s interesting to think how a project rooted and associated with metal evolves into something like this but in ten years there is a lot of time for change, especially if the level of enthusiasm is kept and there’s some serious talent involved. If one thing T/M/K probably can’t be accused of is of stagnation and not taking chances; in this latest iteration of their existence, T/M/K veer close to the work and aesthetics of John Zorn without any of the self-indulgence and chaos normally associated with him. Throughout the album there is a relaxed and almost playful atmosphere (hell, even the name “Textbook of Modern Karate” indicates some sense of humour), despite the rather obvious ominous darkness underlying the whole album.
Relaxed but by no means reckless, “Need the Needle” seems to be extremely well thought out from beginning to end (or the result of a hefty dose of natural talent). Listening to any of its tracks, it quickly becomes apparent that every element in every piece is there for a reason and serves a purpose. In fact, if one is to find any fault in this album is that most tracks stay below the 3 minute mark and, while they do work perfectly well isolatedly (even the extremely short “Sicilian Lunch”), one may feel that something may they could have been developed a bit more.
Despite a somewhat episodic nature, the album flows quite well as a whole from the jazzy beginnings of “The Burglar, the Herdsmand & the Jew” to the extended ritual conclusion that is “Sorcellerie Bruitiste” (which, itself, could easily be fragmented into smaller independent parts). In between, all the elements mentioned above combined for an extremely rich and varied listening experience and a wild ride of an album.
For a first contact with the music world of T/M/K (as Textbook of Modern Karate), this was a very unexpected and rather pleasant surprise and. “Need the Needle” is one of those releases that in addition to sounding genuine are bound to have some sort of mainstream appeal as well. Easily one of the standout albums of 2009 for me and a project to keep an eye out for in the future (and perhaps check out their earlier material).
— Miguel de Sousa