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Kauan : Pirut

Kauan return with a strong new line-up to release their most mature and eclectic album to date.

Kauan are one of those rare bands which draw on a wide variety of influences and thus defy any clear categorisation, but still manage to create something coherent. This achievement deserves all the more respect considering the fact that the project has always been Anton Belovís brainchild with only minor contributions from other musicians. Despite the restrictions involved, the Russian songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has always managed to maintain a high level of complexity and professionalism. Still, the last album Kuu.. can easily be seen as the weakest point in Kauanís career: with their stronger emphasis on Post-Rock structures, the compositions had a tendency to drag on and lacked the necessary focus to really captivate, despite a number of good ideas scattered across the playing time.

But a lot has happened in the two-and-a-half years between the release of said album and the new one, Pirut (Finnish for ďDevilsĒ) Ė a time span which was bridged by the completion of a special private release with re-recordings of old songs earlier this year. Most importantly, the band has relocated to Kyiv, Ukraine, where the first complete line-up has been formed, including Alex Vynogradoff from Vin de Mia Trix (bass) and the first permanent drummer in the projectís history, Anton Skrynnik. Lubov Mushnikovaís violin has been replaced by Anatoly Gavrilovís viola. Apart from the band leader, Alina Roberts is the only name that re-appears: she contributed some guest vocals on the predecessor and is now listed as a regular member who, apart from her occasional backing vocals, is responsible for the keyboards.

With all these changes going on, it is tempting to ask whether Kauan can remain true to their sound and reputation. Well, the answer is a clear yes! Anton Belovís trademark songwriting is easily recognised, as is the bandís characteristic atmosphere. The new album benefits greatly from the completion of the line-up. Just as on the predecessor, the use of a proper drum kit adds a more organic feel which the first three albums lacked.

We learn from the liner notes that Pirut has been conceived as a single long track and only been split into eight nameless sections for listening convenience (hence the rather useless tracklist below). As problematic as such ultra-long compositions often are, this entire album feels like a coherent whole which flows along naturally. All of the elements have their rightful place here and are employed wisely to serve a specific compositional purpose. For instance, the viola contributes many of the lead melodies, thereby almost replacing the role of a lead guitar; some of those melodies are recurring motifs which serve as points of reference throughout the composition and make it seem like a meditation over a specific thought or emotion. In between those landmarks, there is much room for the thoughts to wander and for the emotions to unfold, but without ever losing track of the point of departure: slow doomy riffs (simplistic in nature, but elevated by the excellent atmosphere) open into beautiful fragile passages with piano, acoustic guitar and/or viola only to slowly build up tension and lead over into yet another section. With these arrangements, Pirut takes you on a fascinating journey if you let it.

Much of the album is purely instrumental, but when Belov employs his melodic singing, he does so with a confidence and emotional depth that surpasses all of his previous efforts. The heavier sections are sometimes supported by his blackish growls which are an integral part of the sound for the first time since the debut. Speaking of which, long-time followers of the band can think of the new albumís sound and style as a mixture of the best elements of Lumikuuro and Aava Tuulen Maa with some progressive tendencies thrown in, all this performed by a band which has clearly matured.

The only two points of criticism that a nitpicking reviewer could rightfully highlight are a) the unnecessarily long introduction which seems somewhat unfocused and b) the albumís relatively short playing time. But the second point is, in fact, very questionable: I am having a hard time imagining what could or should have been added to Pirut without resulting in redundancy and inconsistency. As has been pointed out, nothing has been left to chance here: the record works perfectly the way it has been conceived. With its unique mixture of Atmospheric Doom, Folk, classical elements as well as Progressive Rock in a broad sense, Kauanís latest is one of the most captivating albums of 2013 and a true gem for all lovers of unusual bands focusing on atmosphere and a natural flow of emotions, both within Doom (old Empyrium, old The 3rd and the Mortal, Forest of Shadows, The Fall of Every Season) and Metal in general (Agalloch, Opeth), or even beyond.

Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. I
2. II
3. III
4. IV
5. V
6. VI
7. VII

Duration : Approx 39 minutes

Visit the Kauan bandpage.

Reviewed on 2014-03-03 by Dominik Sonders
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