Kanaan- ‘Earthbound’

By Fiachra Johnston

Departing from much of the freeform, jazz-tinged rock foundations of their first three records, the fast-rising Norwegian instrumental band Kanaan have moved in a surprisingly heavy direction with their latest outing, ‘Earthbound’. For a band with such an experimental nature behind them, a stylistic change may be no surprise, but the result is an often intriguing, and quite explosive fourth record that allows the trio to continue to grow and push the boundaries of their sound.

Our opening ‘Prelude’, opens up the record with some familiarity, with the hazy, psychedelic ambiance Kanaan have built their name off, tinged with almost ’60s science-fiction electronica that opens up into the ice-water shock of ‘Return to the Tundrasphere’ (perhaps following on from ‘Urgent Excursions To The Tundrasphere’ from their 2020 record ‘Odense Sessions’). Immediately you’ll notice these are some heavier guitar stylings than you may be used to from Kanaan: sharp, crashing, We Lost The Sea-evoking riffs that rarely relent for a moment as a surprisingly rock ‘n’ roll drum line leads them in the charge (drummer Ingvald André Vassbø really ups his game a notch here to match this new heavy sound). ‘Pink Riff’ sees the band hit double time while keeping that same heaviness before descending into cacophonic, trippy noise that will knock you off balance in the best possible way. 

It’s about four songs in that you realise there are few breaks to be had in ‘Earthbound’. There are no sudden grandiose moments of flair paired with moments of calm, but rather a sustained chaos that weaves through all of ‘Earthbounds’ tracks. It certainly works in their favour, as while there won’t be any swelling choruses to marvel at, it’s impressive to keep such energy and technical proficiency consistent and engaging over eight tracks, as they move from style to style. They haven’t abandoned their old sound in favour of this, though, as ‘Bourdan’ brings back some of that recognisable, underlying funk in a sugar rush of a track with a killer solo that taps into something very Hendrix-like in its improv sound. The mash up of stoner ’60s riffs with heavier, almost noise-rock feels fresh for the group without feeling overpowering, though whether they should have descended even further into Black-Midi math-rock territory will depend on the listener.

The interlude ‘Mirage’ is one of the few-and-far-between rest stops in ‘Earthbound’, returning to those beautiful electronic-lead moments of calm from ‘Prelude’ with some suitably desert-like percussion, before cracking back on with ‘Mudbone’, an almost 12-minute marathon demonstrating just how heavy the self styled “Kyuss From Jazz School” group can go when the mood hits them. Pairing wailing guitar and synths together in an instrumental duet, it contrasts chugging, sludge-rock riffs and hammer blow drums in the album’s strongest showing. Somehow, the trio find it in themselves to go even more sludge (even perhaps leaning into the realm of doom-metal) with the aptly named ‘Crash’, a slow, morose hangover track to complement the wild energy of its predecessor.‘No Stone Unturned’, ramps the frenetic pace back up one last time in a house fire of a track, as warbling electronica is layered over frenzied noise-rock in a rampaging close to the album.

‘Earthbound’ doesn’t dig into the eclectic well of jazz stylings as deeply as some of Kanaan’s past ventures, but it does allow the well-travelled Norwegian trio to put their foot down on the gas pedal and create some of their heaviest hitting work yet. An impressive showcase that favours sustained technical ability and hard-hitting substance over overt flashiness, if you want to see three of the most underrated up-and-coming musicians in Europe grow their style before your eyes (and ears), ‘Earthbound’ might just be your ticket.

FIACHRA JOHNSTON

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