Thursday 21 May 2020

Kanaan - Double Sun (2020)

Country: Norway
Style: Psychedelic Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 24 Apr 2020
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Kanaan are a relatively new band, formed in Norway in 2018, but they're not unafraid to put out material. They issued their first album, Windborne, that year, and have followed up with another two this year, Odense Sessions and Double Sun. I haven't heard the former yet but I've enjoyed this one, which is rather like Pink Floyd had known what stoner rock was in 1975 and kept a closer focus on their spacier explorations of the past.

A combination of A Saucerful of Secrets and Wish You Were Here is a decent place to start and that's Worlds Together. It has the calm pace of Wish You Were Here but a psychedelic layer of je ne sais quoi that takes the result somewhere else entirely. The band are more than able to recreate that sparse beauty but they clearly decided that they wanted to play music that isn't as clean or as nice. The guitar here starts soft and acoustic and ends up like a building site tool.

Not clean or nice is where we really go once the couple of minutes of Worlds Together wrap and we move into Mountain. Ingvald André's drums keep a simple beat as Eskild Myrvoll bass explores an echo chamber like it's on the prowl for a fight and Ask Vatn Strøm's guitar solos around oblivion. After five or six minutes of sheer emphasis, it goes all introspective like it was aiming for the stratosphere and finally burst through into space, where we float in contemplation and under the influence of acid.

The sound is heavier here and could easily be described as stoner rock, but I'd stay with psychedelic rock instead. These are instrumental trips rather than songs and they're less interested in big fuzzy riffs and more in where they can go during these jams. Mountain is appropriately named because it's a behemoth of a jam but it's a jam nonetheless. And, as we move into a more grounded Oresund, we realise that they're playing with jazz here as much as rock. You can always tell from the drums at the start of a track.

The jazz background of these musicians, who apparently met at the Norwegian Academy of Music, is most obvious early in Oresund but it's there throughout the album if we pay attention, even when André finds some ruthless rhythms. The way Oresund builds is just as complex as the first half of Mountain was simple. Worlds Apart finds that complexity from moment one, a jazz eruption of a piece of music that bursts into activity like a new star, only to burn itself out in three minutes, like a celestial herald tasked with announcing the arrival of the title tracks.

There are two of them, almost appropriately given the title. Double Sun I is as calm as Worlds Apart is frantic, at least until the guitar gets heavy in the second half. Double Sun II is another exercise in escalation, throwing a basic idea out there as a riff then continuing to build it for eight minutes until it's far from basic. While it isn't the most ambitious piece of music on this album, I think it's my favourite.

I'd love to be able to explain the sound to you better, but Kanaan do a good job of escaping their influences for the most part. There's certainly a lot of Pink Floyd here, from way back in their Set the Controls era, but there's also a lot of Hawkwind too, not just in the spacey sound effects but also in the sheer drive of Double Sun II, which wouldn't seem out of place on Space Ritual alongside songs like Brainstorm, even if it has no words or bridges. Take those influences and jazz them up and you'll have an idea of where the band are playing in the stratosphere.

I liked this a lot and it got better on repeat listens. Now I need to track down Odense Sessions, which the band released a couple of months earlier in February. It features only four songs, all of them long, and adds the guest guitar of Jonas Munk.

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