Record Review: KAS Product – By Pass DLX RM

kas-product-bypassfrcda

Les Disques Du Soleil Et De L’Acier ‎| FR | CD | 2005 | CDSA 54091

KAS Product: By Pass DLX RM FRENCH CD [2005]

  1. Loony-Bin
  2. Seldom, Often
  3. Smooth Down
  4. Mingled & Tangled
  5. Tina Town
  6. T.M.T.
  7. Devil Fellow
  8. W. Infatuation
  9. Taking Shape
  10. Tape
  11. Scape
  12. Sweet & Sour
  13. Crash
  14. Party

It was 2006 when I first chanced to hear the glories of French electroduo KAS Product. My wife had given me a subscription to Pandora, after reading about the Music Genome Project that fueled it. For a year I listened to Pandora when working on my computer; ad-free. I only ever built a single station to listen to and the seed for it was singular: Gina X Performance. I discovered a lot of interesting music that year, but few as compelling as KAS Product. The song that immediately caught my attention was “Loony-Bin.”

It sounded like a jazz-singing chanteuse who somehow found herself fronting a Suicide-inspired electroduo band. The primitive drum machines [rhythm boxes, really], frantically kept up a fast BMP motorik beat while the scant, snarling guitars of vocalist Mona Soyoc added to the amphetamine, headlong rush of the song. Synthesist Spatsz added foreboding, minimal synth drones underneath it all that gave the nearly spastic music an almost cinematic underpinning. The song ended with an arresting eight measure beatbox “solo” that had the feel of stomping, flamenco rhythms that climaxed the utterly thrilling song in a highly appropriate manner. Why not listen, if you’ve not had the pleasure?

After hearing that can you blame me for wanting more? As it turned out, the band’s first two albums were re-issued on CD in 2005, and after exposure on Pandora, I soon found the debut album “Try Out” for sale in a local punk rock record store, and it remained until recently, when buying titles off of my infinite want list for my birthday, that I finally obtained “By Pass.” In the intervening decade, I had not heard “Loony-Bin” but a single play of the CD brought back all of the glory and wonder that it enticed me with with a fervor undimmed by the years. How would the rest of the album fare with these ears?

L-R: Spatz + Mona Soyoc

L-R: Spatz + Mona Soyoc [then]

As it turned out, exceptionally well! “Seldom Often” immediately pressed the Post-Punk buttons with the relentless Latin rhythms of the rhythm boxes subverted into the least likely setting possible. The foghorn synth drones that accompanied the flailing tempo of the rhythm box gave a wide berth for Ms. Soyoc to carry almost all of the melody to be found in this music on her shoulders. Vocally, her singing was unlike most working in this field. She had come from a jazz singing background, and as such, her phrasing was unlike most electro vocalists. If anything, she favored the sort of expressive, cabaret style favored by Marc Almond. Neither were “singer’s singers” if you follow. Each favored vitality of expression over technical ability, thank goodness. Her jazz leanings came to the fore on the coquettish “Mingles + Tangled” where her phrasing style was pushed to the limit.

What was once “side one” of this disc ended with the minimal and foreboding “Tina Town.” The minimal backing to be found on these songs; it’s only a two-chord synth drone here, managed to build a powerful sense of dread and decay. It’s one of the tracks here where the BPM was cut to normal levels, and the contrast makes it stand out all the more.

“T.M.T.” was apparently a remake of a track on the band’s 1980 “Play Loud” EP called “Take Me Tonight” two years earlier. It’s 1983 incarnation here shows what I would consider to be a huge D.A.F. influence with pumping synthetic EBM rhythms powerfully anchoring the song. When I went back to hear what the original 1980 version [released in the Fall of 1980] sounded like on iTunes [it’s on the “Black + Noir” 1990 compilation] I was shocked to hear that the song only differed from the later version in terms of the slightly faster tempo [and greater confidence] of the 1983 version. What I consider the classic D.A.F. template dated from the “Alles Is Güt/Gold Und Leibe” era… which happened in 1981. D.A.F. were probably in the studio for “Alles Ist Gut” no later than the Fall of 1980. Is it possible that D.A.F. had encountered this 1980 French EP before making their third album and were inspired by it? Crucially, I’ve not heard a note from the second D.A.F. album from the Summer of 1980, “Die Kleinen Und Die Bösen.” Can any readers shed a little light on this scenario? Did what I consider the classic D.A.F. EBM sound in fact originate with KAS Product?

On tracks like “W. Infatuation” and “Tape” the band step outside of the fast, motorik, Suicide-derived genre to approach something much more dramatic, with Ms. Soyoc offering a spoken-word, dramatization with soundtrack vision in lieu of more traditional song. Which almost makes a canny kind of sense, since her song lyrics are often dispassionate character studies [esp. see “Underground Movie” from “try Out”] instead of anything from the traditional confessional, singer-songwriter school.

KAS Product today

KAS Product today

The four tracks appended to this re-issue come from the 12” single of “Loony-Bin” and the 1990 “Black + Noir” compilation. Of the four, “Crash” showed the band mining by then sturdy Ballard territory, though the lyrical slant was far more of a narrative than things like “Warm Leatherette.” Ultimately, what stuck in the mind after listening to it was the verse structure what was ripped screaming from the refrain of Bowie’s “Queen Bitch.”

I really enjoy owning the first two KAS Product albums, and the one thing that occurred to me in the 21st century when listening to them, was… where were these albums back in 1981-1983 when they were originally released? I would have been eating this band up! I neither saw nor heard them at all. What really hurts is that the band have been reactivated and they actually played a date in L.A. last year that I just found out about! Listening to them today is very rewarding in that I very much miss the bands of the last 70s/early 80s for their fascinating juxtapositions that usually don’t occur today. One of the things I am referring to is the penchant of electronic bands of the pre-programmable drum machine era to work with early rhythm machines. Most of these had 4-8 basic rhythms built into them: foxtrot, rhumba, latin et. al. This led to exciting prospects like Post-Punk bands making songs with what were already dated rhythms of the mid-century but with the beats placed into a radically different context. Fewer more radical or theatrical than KAS Product.

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About postpunkmonk

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7 Responses to Record Review: KAS Product – By Pass DLX RM

  1. Echorich says:

    I love this corner of the blogosphere! The fact that ANYONE know, let alone enjoys KAS Product validates the 40 plus years of loving music no one else I knew ever heard. Sure I have my core friend that came together over the love of Punk, New Wave and Post Punk, but even in that core of “like mindeds” there were lines of demarcation. I have one other really great and long term friend who may be an ever bigger fan of KAS Product and DAF than me, We would both be in your corner Monk on the fact that KAS Product and DAF are of a sound and that sound traces back to Suicide. This was Punk/Synth/DIY/Art music. And my favorite KAS Product song – One Of The Kind.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – We aim to please here at PPM. Music like this is possibly my greatest motivator. Is there anything more New Wave than “One Of The Kind?” It’s a potent cocktail of attitude and affectation.

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  2. Vlad says:

    Their video for “Never Come Back” was one of the first ever “minimal synth” songs I’ve heard and seen. I had little knowledge about this subgenre and even assumed it to be a recent… hmmm… product (the year was 2006 or thereabouts). Didn’t know what to make of that song – it was a bit too radical in execution for me then, synthpunk, really, when I was only getting to know synth music apart from the usual suspects like Human League, DM and all.

    In contrast, now that’s probably my favourite song by them – and one of the representatives of “minimal synth” for me. Just so much energy and dark humour/sarcasm and the vocals are really something else – not only the masterful and commanding delivery but 1980s synth music wasn’t really rich with women voices, right? Not to say their other songs are inferior, just that the first impression is very often the deepest and you just can’t help but come back to it again and again :o) Still, their guitar-based songs are very often a bit grating for me, I generally prefer purely synth sound. Funny that, while most people find it “cold” and “inhuman” and “alientaing”, for me it’s very organic and real and emotional. I now find lots of guitar rock cold, artificial and alientaing – like heavy metal or the like. Remember watching some video by Kiss and being so shaken by the gross stupidity of everyting seen and heard that I literally ran to “Enola Gay” video for remedy :o)))

    Back to Kas Product, they’re rather unusual as being actually from France but playing music more characteristic for the British bands of the time. Generally European post-punk/minimal had their own twist, but KP stand out of that line. Very interesting band in all aspects – and thank you for bringing them up here!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Vlad – I suppose it came down to the 2005 reissue of the first two albums that meant that we both encountered this band the next year. “I remember watching some video by Kiss.” That’s blood chilling! I think that I was the only 11 year old in my state at the time when you could by hundreds of different types of Kiss merchandise who did not think that Kiss were the most amazing band ever. They’ve got maybe two songs that are worth a damn out of decades of sub-drivel, lame hard rock. If you are like me, alienated from the society in which you live [now more than ever!] then your attitude makes perfect sense.

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  3. I first came across Kas Product a very long time ago — probably late 1982 or early 1983, and via my association with WRAS. The song I first heard was “Pussy X” and I recall that my impression was “Gina X Performance meets Suicide” but rather than obsessively grab their other stuff, I was more fixated on some of the many other things going on at the time, and didn’t pay them due attention to my regret. I’m delighted to hear they’re a functioning unit again, and I’ll grab some more of their work to peruse and enjoy. Knowing what an (oddly) synth-friendly area you live in, perhaps you’ll someday get to see them perform!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      chasinvictoria – While “Pussy X” was a single, it was perhaps not the most representative track to first encounter. The tale of a scornful cat who has felt the wheel of karma deal them a harsh blow was always their least likely song. I can hardly blame you for not following through at the time. My first exposure was with “Loony-Bin” and while I quickly bought their first CD [you and your wife were visiting us and we were music shopping together as I recall] why on earth did I wait a decade before getting the second album?! Wait… now I recall why. Because it almost instantly went OPP and was very expensive… until it was reissued recently! Phew! Good excuse!

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