It feels like a misgiving to call a band original these days, but Raketkanon truly are nothing if not original. That perspective can be examined from a number of different points of view, and while a band singing in their own made-up language feels like it’s priming the pump to be snapped up by overzealous media types looking for the next gimmick to peddle, that’s already been done here. This sort of manic, unstable post-punk / noise-rock is not marketable in the long term, especially not these days, so it’s no wonder that the original furore around Raketkanon died down relatively soon after it had begun. And besides, this isn’t a hype band by any means; Raketkanon have been far more successful picking up steam in the underground and running with it there, and even despite the very obvious language barrier, they’ve built a cult following that’s genuinely impressive. It’s not like they could’ve possibly gotten to their third album without it, and with RKTKN#3 reportedly being the moment where the band take their brand of chaos to its logical extreme, that’s always a notion that’s going to spark some interest.
And to be as fair as possible, that interest is entirely warranted. As a body of work, there’s really nothing that RKTKN#3 can be compared to in a musical realm, and it certainly does feel like Raketkanon extending their sound far beyond where they’ve reached before. That’s definitely commendable, but it doesn’t automatically make it good, and in a case like this, the sound has been extended so far that it’s pretty much snapped. What is effectively supposed to be an album to show how music can be driven as a purely visceral, feral experience works in bursts, but an experiment as overtly bold and defiant in the face of conventionality was bound to hit some kind of roadblock eventually, and this is arguably about as prominent as that gets.
With that being said though, it’s not hard to see where Raketkanon’s appeal stems from. They feel like less of a band and more of some kind of outsider art installation, breathing and contorting themselves through their own spontaneity to simply see where they’ll end up. And that can be thrilling for some, particularly when they land into something marginally more structured with a greater sense of propulsion, like with the grinding guitars and bass of Ricky bouncing off its bubbling synth lines, or the spasmodic mathcore freakouts of Harry. Alongside a greater focus on synth interpolations to fill in more of the avant-garde post-punk gaps, the evolution of this project does take a number of interesting turns, and ones where the guerilla nature of Raketkanon’s mere existence morphs into a more convincing portrait of what they could deliver.
It’s just unfortunate that’s not more of a regularity, especially when hypnagogic ambience comes more into the fore and it feels like that Raketkanon are simply trying to do too much at once. It reaches a boiling point for awkwardness on Hannibal where sharp blasts of abrasion are punctuated by borderline silence in a way that lacks any sort of grace or cohesion, but extended to the sleepy drones of Mélody and Lou or the Krautrock void of Robin, it can be difficult to see where the end goal is and leaves the impression that Raketkanon are just drifting into the horizon. The same conclusion can be drawn for the vocals too, a natural casualty for what is effectively shapeless vocalisations contorted into something resembling words, but there can be a further awkwardness to Pieter-Paul Devos’ delivery that struggles to hit any kind of mark, especially in the vaguely-defined mumbles that comprise Mélody.
It’s all just sort of a weird, uncomfortable mess, occasionally stumbling upon a workable tangent that fashioned accordingly, but with enough that fails to stick the landing around it to convincingly believe that could be an accident. Even then, it’s not impossible to picture some people actually liking this, particularly those with more of an interest in post-punk’s stranger, more underground offshoots, but RKTKN#3 sets its barrier to entry extremely high, to the point where it doesn’t even seem worth it at times. At least curios like this that constantly keep everyone on their toes seem healthy for the scene as a whole and keeping it moving forward, but they don’t always pan out as far as quality is concerned, and Raketkanon have delivered a prime example of that here.
For fans of: Steak Number Eight, Swans, Kapitan Korsakov
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘RKTKN#3‘ by Raketkanon is released on 5th April on Alcopop! Records.