4th November 2014 – Blood Music
02. Aamu Ja Kaste
04. Koivun Elämä
05. Sumun Syleily
06. Äidin Laulu
Russian quintet Kauan have been crafting their sophisticated sound in the depths of winter for several albums now; they’ve released five since 2007, which is nothing to sniff at. Muistumia, released towards the end of 2014 through Finnish label Blood Music, is their sixth album, and primarily contains crowd-funded re-recordings of select songs from their back catalog, as well as a new one called “Unsoi”. The band’s name is Finnish for “for long” or “for a long time”, and the lyrics are mostly sung/rasped in Finnish too, with occasional hints of Russian. If you speak neither, it makes for a deep sense of alienation – which contributes to this album’s mysterious aura and desolate charm.
Kauan go above and beyond typical doom/metal convention by adding strong elements of neo-folk, neo-classical and post-rock into their music. They practically sound like a prog-metal outfit on tracks like the more upbeat “Koivun Elama”, with its odd-time riffing and trippy keys – but no matter where they go musically on Muistumia, they never lose sight of their dark palette – contrasted by stark white winters like the water-colour painting on the album cover depicts.
The 5-piece’s strong suit throughout Muistumia is their ability to blend musical textures; the typical rock instruments are rounded out by mournful strings, sombre piano, creepy bells, ominous synths and even what sounds like a theramin on the haunting new cut “Unsoi”.
What really impresses is Kauan’s adventurous/experimental arrangements, which take the listener on a journey through bleak Siberian winters – for 6-10 minutes at a time – and without a dull moment. There’s plenty of variety in the instrumentation here, but also in the vocals, which are sung cleanly (with great harmonies) and rasped in a black metal fashion by the band’s main writer and guitarist Anton Belov.
Occasional female vocals are lent by Alina Roberts, and add a nice touch in all the right places, especially on the outstanding track “Äidin Laulu”, which brings to mind fellow (obscure) eastern European avant-goth-metal band Sirrah. The production on the original recording of this song is pretty solid too, so one has to question the purpose of these re-recordings when it could have just been a “best-of” album. Perhaps recording English versions of these songs would have been more productive to capture a wider, north american audience – but there’s a passion and honesty to Kauan’s music that is best left as-is, in it’s natural state.
At least now their (arguably) finest songs from albums past are together here in one convenient package – with slightly better production – making it not only a crowd pleaser to long-time Kauan fans who helped fund the recording, but also a great place for newcomers to start discovering their magical genre-spanning music.