Psych-jazz supernova KANAAN strikes again with “Downpour”.

Written by Album Review, Chronique

Ask Vatn Strøm (guitars), Ingvald André Vassbø (drums) and Eskild Myrvoll (bass, keyboards) are always hard at work. Whether they produce albums, jam sessions, wild collaborations or live performances, Norway’s most prolific trio is used to fill our Kallax shelves with the finest Psych Rock. “Downpour” is already the seventh effort in KANAAN’s discography in five years. As if every moment of their unbridled creativity had to be documented, highlighting their Free Jazz roots. A trio format that allows them to explore all the different avenues opened up by their music.

Highly inspired by Jazz Rock on “Windborne”, definitely going Free Jazz on “Odensee Sessions”, and openly Psychedelic on “Double Sun”, the guys throw a lump of butter into the psychedelic pond on “EarthBound” and push the levels beyond eleven. And they do well, as this album was one of most pleasant surprises of 2021. Some of the leftover ideas got refined and used as the backbone of “Downpour”. And this is precisely why this album is the direct follow-up to “Earthbound”. Keeping the aforementioned free jazz spirit in mind, Kanaan couldn’t resign themselves to playing just one style of music, just like their releases: sometimes heavy and “structured”, sometimes totally improv-driven. The seven drops of the kaleidoscopic deluge that is “Downpour” attempt to bridge the gap between these two worlds. And it’s no coincidence that one track features fellow Swede Hedvig Mollestad — one of their major inspirations and whose music oscillates between 70s heavy rock and jazz.

In keeping with this dichotomy, the record is divided into two distinct facets, with the interlude “Psunspot” strengthening the polarity. The first side is more radio-friendly than the second thanks to “Black Time Fuzz”, a cluster bomb of devastating riffs that rumble, thunder and swirl… This sonic deluge is a fuzz and distortion downpour that relies on powerful and dynamic playing. “Amazon” follows suit with a pulsating groove that lifts you up and carries you through a vortex of saturated guitars.

Although the album is fully instrumental, the guitars speak, chatter, and even rant as they narrate a beautiful, relaxed Space Rock odyssey through the “Orbit” and “Solaris Pt. 1 and Pt. 2”. Sound effects reminiscent of space traveling would punctuate such tales.

In contrast to the much more scathing first part, Kanaan knows precisely how to balance their songwriting’s pace and liveliness, which get more stretched out yet also focused on the B-side. The weightlessness of their atmospheric patterns gradually gives way to incendiary streaks, setting the songs ablaze for a chaotic, explosive finale like a psychedelic supernova.

It can’t be said often enough, but in an ear when attention spans are limited to a Superbowl commercial and got us all sinking culturally, keeping instrumental music exciting remains a challenge. And Kanaan excels by drawing on their jazz background and their relentless musical explorations. Whether they deliver a loud and thunderous single (“Black Time fuzz”) or more stretched-out tracks that keep the tension rising to the point of convulsion (“Orbit”), you can’t get bored. Then when it comes to conquering space, you can count on the Kanaan spaceship.

ARTIST: Kanaan
ALBUM: Downpour
RELEASE DATE: 5th May 2023
LABEL: Jansen Records
GENRE: Jazz-psych
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Last modified: 30 May 2023