Thursday, 4 February 2010

Kauan - Aava Tuulen Maa(2009) 80/100.

Are Kauan currently redefining post-rock as we know it? Possibly. Having listened to the Russian duo’s third full-length, entitled ‘Aava tuulen maa’, a number of times through, I would never have regarded it as post-rock myself. In fact, to me, it just seems like mellow rock, with folk elements attached to it, but the band themselves are calling their music “ambient post-rock”, so who am I to disagree with the musicians themselves? I do consider myself a fan of post-rock, though only ever in moderation. My favourite band are a post-rock group, in actual fact. They’re called Jakob and are from New Zealand and given my knowledge of the genre only expands over to the past decade, or so, and certainly not before it, I couldn’t tell you the origins of the genre, or how it was first formed, therefore I feel I have no place to disregard this as a post-rock record. However, in comparison to bands like Jakob and modern post-rock bands currently doing the rounds, Kauan have a sound unlike any of those before them and I daresay the Russian duo will continue to explore music and in doing so, construct music which is unlike anyone else at that precise moment in time.

Gone are the days of ‘Lumikuuro’, a record which established Kauan as a domineering force in the metal industry. As the reviews suggest, including my own, the debut executed an experimental combination of black and doom metal together well. The music was inspiringly led by the beautiful piano, an inspired inclusion on the part of Kauan’s true leader, Anton Belov, who I believe was still a teenager at the time of the recording. His tactical knowledge was superior, even at such a young and tender age. He knew precisely how to make an experimental fare work in his favour and in doing so, attracted a score of fans to his metaphorical doorstep. I can’t imagine someone like Anton using the metal industry and its fans in order to gain notoriety, but that is how it worked. Bands as early as the mid 1990’s have been altering their sound with every record within the metal industry. One particular band who springs instantly to mind is Ulver, perhaps a potential influence behind the Russian duo. It is highly likely that Ulver’s less-than-traditional movement between the genres has sparked Kauan’s talented twosome to do the same thing, albeit in a slightly differently fashion.

As Ulver did, Kauan started with a strong black metal record, which is essentially what it is, and from there they have moved towards a far mellower state of being by addressing directly genres like folk and rock. Ulver themselves have released, in many people’s eyes, the perfect trilogy of records each with a different direction. From black, to folk, both Kauan and Ulver have moved further and further away from their roots but with every passing moment, it’s becoming clearer than the destination was always going to be on of an experimental nature because musicians like Anton Belov are not meant to be tied down to any one specific genre, as shown perfectly here on ‘Aava tuulen maa’, a record which shows some signs of the past, but mostly shows off a new façade. ‘Tietäjän Laulu’ is probably the closest comparison to this current record, one of a multi-faceted approach. Anton himself creates most of the music, with his current accomplice, Lyubov Mushnikova, supplying the violin passages, which are expertly executed on songs like ‘Sokea Sisar’, which in fact perfectly demonstrates the records true ability, as it pulls together elements such as the violins, together with the acoustics, usually light percussion and the piano.

I don’t suppose there are any elements on this record which could be seen as overused in the modern scene. Although this record does occasionally resemble the early works of bands like Agalloch, especially when the timid guitars are introduced on songs like ‘Sokea Sisar’, but mostly this record remains a separatist entity from much of the industries works. If we’re viewing this as a post-rock record, which I normally don’t, then this must be viewed as an innovative record which could be a potentially influential source of music in a few years time with it’s beautiful textures and adventurous spirit when it comes to the use of all the instruments used on this piece - which includes bass, drums, guitars, the piano, a violin and even keyboards, which fuel the folk inspired fire by lightly sprinkling imagery of forests and mother nature into the soundscapes.

Despite the overwhelming beauty of the record, as well as the undoubted talents that Anton possesses, I do still prefer the debut. I’m a metal fan first and foremost, though I do appreciate some other genres outside of the metal industry. His work on ‘Lumikuuro’ was outstanding as he looked to blend black and doom together with the use of an integral piano. His vocal work was also more to my liking, though I do appreciate the emotive textures of his clean voice, which definitely does suit the new ambient based style of folk and rock. I don’t expect Kauan to stick by this new sound, in all honesty. I have no problem with bands experimenting, but sooner or later there has to come a time when they put their foot wrong and try to access a stream of music which isn’t to the long-time fans’ liking. Although, currently, Kauan are tapping into a source which is both beautiful and luscious, I can imagine Anton upsetting a branch of fans just as bands like Ulver have done by not returning to ways of old. For now, this is definitely an approach I can stomach and do so with ease. The acoustics and softer touches make it accessible and easy to process, but how I miss the days of piano based black and doom. Essential listening for fans of folk and rock.

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