Review Summary: The perfect album with which to usher in the spring.
Kauan is a Russian band that was formed in 2005 by Anton Belov, who is the project’s primary songwriter and main instrumentalist. The band got its start playing a form of blackened doom metal with heavy folk and post-rock influences. Their 2007 debut, Lumikuuro
, is an excellent representation of this hybrid sound. After the release of Lumikuuro
the band became a duo, consisting of Lubov Mushnikova on violin and Anton Belov on all other instruments and vocals. This lineup released Tietäjän Laulu
in 2008, a very strong album that noticeably scaled back the black metal influence in favor of a strong emphasis on the post-rock aspects of their music. While the band’s doom influence was still prevalent on Tietäjän Laulu
, the doom elements played a secondary role to the post-rock and were used more as a tool to enhance the atmosphere of the album than being representative of the album’s overall sound. Almost exactly one year after releasing Tietäjän Laulu
, Kauan followed the album up with their best work to date, Aava tuulen maa
. This heavily atmospheric release found Kauan completely shedding their past metal influences to create a work that is best classified as folk-influenced post-rock. While some doom elements do remain on segments of two of the album’s tracks (“Sokea Sisar” and “Neulana Hetkessä”), they play a very small role and serve a strictly background purpose that does not distract from the album’s musical focus.
Aava tuulen maa translates to “Vast Lands of the Winds”, and the album quite fittingly begins and ends with nature samples of the wind blowing through the trees. Atmosphere is an essential aspect of the album, and nature samples are used judiciously throughout the album to contribute significantly to the album’s overall mood. With its emotional melodies, its inclusion of nature sounds that include the chirping of birds, and its beautiful artwork, Aava tuulen maa
is the perfect album with which to usher in the spring. While each track on the album is well-crafted and very enjoyable in its own right, Aava tuulen maa
is an album that simply must be experienced as a whole. It is pointless to single out specific tracks on the record as standouts, for the album functions as one continuous piece of art. The conclusion of each song brings back the sound of wind, which provides a smooth transition into the next piece. This creative feature ties the album’s tracks together both thematically and sonically. While each song has its own unique melodies and instrumentation, the songs are placed in such an order that each one complements the one that came before it and the one that immediately follows.
As is the case with all Kauan releases, there is a great deal of compositional complexity demonstrated on Aava tuulen maa
. Each track consists of several distinct segments that develop throughout the course of each song, and these segments feature recurring variations of a melody unique to each song. This melodic transformation that occurs in each piece is very tasteful, and keeps the listener interested for the track’s duration. It must be stressed that there is simply never a dull moment on Aava tuulen maa
. Certainly each piece is rather lengthy; excluding the opening instrumental that lasts for five minutes, every song at the album clocks in at or just over ten minutes long. While the length of these pieces may seem intimidating, the song lengths actually end up being one of the album’s greatest strengths. The length of each track gives the band plenty of time to develop and expand upon their musical ideas. Every song goes on as long as it needs to in order to get its point across; no track overstays its welcome.
Regarding the vocals on the album, Aava tuulen maa
finds Belov completely abandoning the harsh vocals he had used on previous releases. Instead, Belov performs with an emotive clean voice that fits the mellow style of music presented on the album very well. Belov has a wonderful voice, and although vocals take a second place to the music on the album, they contribute significantly to the strength of the album when they are featured. The album’s production values are also stellar; all vocals and instruments are heard very clearly and are heard at the perfect volume. The instrumentation on the album largely favors clean guitars and keyboards, although violin (performed by Lubov Mushnikova) and acoustic guitars, while less prevalent, are used to great effect as well. For the most part, the music performed on the album is very layered, with many instruments and multiple guitar and keyboard tracks playing at the same time. While there is often a lot going on musically, the songs almost always give an air of simplicity through their light, buoyant melodies. A particularly moving musical segment that must be mentioned is the swelling keyboard melody towards the end of track two, “Valveuni”. This strong but simple melody leads into a beautiful descending piano part backed by acoustic guitar strumming that conclude the song, and serves as the perfect representation of the album as a whole.
Aava tuulen maa
is a brilliant, beautiful album that is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in post-rock or emotional music as a whole. The album’s atmosphere evokes feelings of hope and affinity with nature, and stands as the quintessential springtime album. While fans of Kauan’s earlier work may find the music a bit soft, Aava tuulen maa
is the logical continuation of the band’s musical progression from doom metal to the atmospheric post-rock they perform today. Certainly anyone who enjoyed Tietäjän Laulu
should find at least parts of the album agreeable. While Kauan has gone on to release two very strong full-length albums in 2011 and 2013, Kuu..
, respectively, these albums are unfortunately unable to match the brilliance of the work demonstrated here. As it stands now, Aava tuulen maa
remains Kauan’s masterwork, a wonderful piece of art that is often unfortunately overlooked. The album certainly deserves to be appreciated by a wider audience than it currently has, and any readers that find this description even remotely interesting are strongly encouraged to give it a listen.