*** I’ve spoken a bit to Ole Fries over the past few days and it’s become clear that many of my predictions in this article are bollocks! Don’t take it too literally! ***
When the new issue of Concrete makes its way onto campus this afternoon, you might find a column in there where I explain why, in the absence of much information about Paul Weller’s next effort, scheduled for Autumn, the album I’m most looking forward to this year is Rae Morris’ second record Someone Out There.
While I still can’t wait for that, recent information has presented a potential usurper to Morris’ upcoming LP in my anticipation: the fourth LP from German art-rockers KEN.
Initially, Aydo Abay used KEN as a release valve from his frustrations with his most famous project, Blackmail. However, a touring hiatus for a few years and lack of new recorded material, plus ‘current’ KEN guitarist Ole Fries and drummer Michael Borwitzky becoming heavily involved with their new band PICTURES and Abay starting an eponymous band and releasing music under that guise seemed to effectively put KEN to bed.
Not so, it seems.
Even in the highly unlikely event that KEN’s music gets forgotten (nearly impossible following the success of Get A Life, featured in Porsche commercials), they will always be remembered as the band which brought together founder member Fries and short-lived touring drummer Markus Krieg. After working together in Ken, Fries joined Krieg’s band Profession Reporter, before the pair reunited once again in PICTURES when Maze Exler and Fries needed a bassist.
However, the new record will be tinged with sadness. KEN bassist Guido Lucas, a central figure in the band, passed away last year at the age of just 53. In a long and distinguished career as a musician and producer, he played in the likes of Genepool and Scumbucket, and produced Blackmail, working with the legendary Kurt Ebelhäuser .
In the absence of other information, it’s reasonable to guess that Fries may well have filled in on bass – he played that instrument on most of the tracks on the ABAY album Everything Is Amazing and No-One Is Happy, after Aydo recruited Juli guitarist Jonas Pfetzing.
How the creative genius Abay will channel his loss is anyone’s guess.
He has previously shown his versatility throughout his career. The A-Side of ABAY’s initial limited-edition EP, Blank Sheets, contains what I maintain to be possibly the best 21 minutes of recorded music ever. Some of the drama and tenderness shown here is quite astonishing. On the other hand, several tracks on Lucas’ final album with KEN, Yes We Ken, are snarling, angry affairs, bursting with instrumentation and heavy synths. Indeed, these two moods are traversed in one song on ABAY’s The Queen Is Dead.
This is one where we can only wait and see.
As for the format and instrumentation of KEN4, it’s really open season, with the band’s style having differed quite markedly from the tighter, earlier recordings to the looser, layered efforts of Yes We Ken starring keyboardist Marcel von der Weiden and guitarist Georg Brenner.
However, Abay has in the past not been shy to share titbits on Instagram. This interaction seems not to extend to recognition of his drunk fans’ 1AM salutations and hideously botched song lyrics in The Waterfront… nonetheless we can pick up some interesting clues about the music.
Indeed, when he first announced the new KEN LP on Instagram last week, it was on David Bowie’s birthday, a fact alluded to by the photo’s caption. Aydo has not in the past been shy to cover artists from ABBA, to The XX, to himself, so a Bowie cover is by no means too big for him to tackle. All of his covers tend to differ markedly from their originals so there’s no telling what it might be or how it might be performed – I’d love to hear an Abay cover of Bowie’s song from The Labyrinth…
“Eno” and “Berlin” were interestingly among the hashtags added to the caption of the photo of a sign reading “Mothership Recorders” with some toy dinosaurs, too. Discuss that amongst yourselves why don’t you?
Interestingly, Abay’s most recent Instagram post showed a desk fan crudely annotated with the words “Wind of Change”, captioned “5 Days, 1 Record” and tagged with the profile of Berlin-based drummer Carlo Caduff who, if he was to replace Borwitzky, would become KEN’s fifth drummer in four albums.
In a series of cryptic comments, an unconfirmed date of the 19th January was mooted by a producer seemingly working with Abay (and June for new ABAY material), along with the promise that KEN’s previous albums would be added to Spotify in summer from Aydo himself.
Another snap later last week appeared to show ABAY guitarist Pfetzing in the studio with KEN, with hashtags including the wonderful “#DryJanuaryMyArse” and the more telling caption “ABAY vs. KEN”.
However, the signs were perhaps there even earlier. After a post promising ABAY (the band) would be back later with new material, there was a photo of an ashtray both posted on Instagram and Abay’s Instagram story, with the caption “doof” (stupid) – an allusion to KEN’s song Quitting Smoking Is Much Easier Than Quitting Talking, perhaps?
But whatever we can read into it, mark your cards, KEN4 is coming, and I for one can’t wait to see how Abay is going to break from the initial successes of his eponymous band and honour Lucas, a legend of the German indie music scene. Watch this space.
Image: Aydo Abay with Blackmail bassist Carlos Ebelhäuser in Heidelberg, October 2003. Photo by Elwedritsch via Wikimedia Commons.