“Merchants Of Air” is Kong’s second album since they returned from their seven year hiatus and follows 2009’s “What It Seems Is What You Get”. The band play instrumentals almost exclusively – though they are prepared to make at least one exception on this album – and utilise a host of styles to create their unmistakeably Kong sound. Elements of electronica, dance, space rock, industrial, prog and avant garde are once again all present and correct as they continue to push the boundaries and blur the demarcation lines between genres.
Kong have always managed to walk the line between experimentation and still being a listenable proposition: each song is like the soundtrack to its own short film, a story within a story. Nothing they do is flashy or deliberately obtuse, but there are gems hidden in every song; sometimes the audience has to work to dig them out through multiple listens, while at other times they’re hidden in plain sight, in a sonic world where industrial sounds meet dance beats, or synth programs meet prog time signatures.
Whatever they throw into the mix, Kong give you an experience like no other band.
On “Merchants Of Air” the current line-up really feels like it has found its feet; far from being a difficult second album (if you see what I mean), this record is even better than “What It Seems Is What You Get”, and that was really good. The sound here seems denser, heavier and more intense; there are more stylistic combinations and collisions of style.
The 11 songs on “Merchants Of Air” show that music can stand on its own without the need for vocals, and that experimental music doesn’t have to consist of long pieces: each song here is compact and concise while still being packed with ideas and experimentation. From the Eat Static-like ambient intro of “Same Meaning, Different Worlds” to the serious riffage of a rocker like “Gates Of Exception”, the music that Kong deliver is fresh and interesting throughout; they even allow themselves the indulgence of vocals that accompany the minimal instrumentation of closing song “Back To The Trees”.
With this new album, Kong continue to be as eclectic, engaging and compelling as ever; every song has something in the mix that elevates it beyond the norm as they expand the sonic possibilities of a four piece band. Nearly a quarter of a century on from the inception of the band’s first line-up, they remain a creative musical force to be reckoned with.