Kauan’s Aava Tuulen Maa received (and will continue to do so) so many spins in my player that it’s borderline ridiculous. The album simply drilled a straight phone line—through my thick bashed skull—into my psyche. With that in mind, and it always is, it was hard to angle myself when I put the group’s latest musical offering Kuu.. into the player. I had high expectations. Very high expectations. While I trusted Anton Belov, the Chelyabinsk-native singing in Finnish, to bring up something magical to the plate, again, I had that infamous one percent fear of it not living up. Not that it really mattered, I already had my Aava Tuulen Maa.
The fact is, I didn’t get another Aava Tuulen Maa, but before you expect me to cry treason, I have to stop you and say that I’m actually thankful to the band for that. What Kauan, as a group, has done here is no easy task; they’ve hit a second straight home run. They’ve expanded their sound, taken it to a different place and time, to another plane and in the process, probably forged the album of the year for me. Is there any metal here? Not really in the traditional sense. And who cares, as what the album loses in sonic aggression it gains thousandfold in atmosphere and emotion. Yet, for example, the grand, mind blowing opener “Tähtien Hiljainen Laulu” felt at times like an acoustic rendition of a funeral doom song. Kuu.., just like its predecessor simply has the power to move, to touch and that’s pretty much the highest of praise I can give to a piece of art; be it music, movies, anything.
I’m still trying to digest this and having a hard time putting the thoughts into words, into a readable review but that only shows how far the group has come in just two years. This album is more mature and it shows up in everything; Kauan could have stretched this album’s running time, but four tracks and 45 minutes speak up for proper restraint. They’ve polished the rough edges without losing the soul of the compositions. They’ve crafted those 45 minutes into near perfection; constructing a Utopian gateway to escape this world into something profound and sublime, full of nuances, details and textures to wrap your essence around.
The journey of reconciliation that Kuu.. is, it’s hard to give proper attention to the tracks separately. Kauan’s brand of combining neo-folkish elements with ambient, soundtrack-inspired (think of select few Polish composers) hues and splicing of bits from heavy metal, progressive rock and post-rock is simply coming into its own terms here. The sound is more expanded, there’s more contrast, more openness; it’s different, but it’s the same. The lyrics are as expected, in Finnish and Belov’s charming voice has seem to grown a bit deeper in two years. Yet, the words bear little meaning in the grand scheme of things; the vocals are merely an instrument as the music―with its rich details―does all the speaking. As powerful as the compositions are, alone they’d be just that, but luckily the record has the production, instrumentation and chemistry to back them up.
A rare thing to say, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
As much of a therapy session as the album has the potential to be, there’s still a narration behind it all. The gunshot at the end of the first track hints at it, but it’s the final track, “Suora Liila Sydänkäyrä”, that truly entwines it all into a realization; a visualization of the things where Belov draws his inspiration from and of how he’s able to make it all his own. When you justifiably and coherently combine the aforementioned musical elements with guitar solos that would fit Top Gun’s soundtrack, all the while taking clear cues from good pop songwriting, Moby and then, in the end, with a growl transform all that into a closure that connects the whole thing to your first few (melodic) doom-tinged albums, it is nothing short of marvelous. A perfect ending; an ultimate cliffhanger that gives you a fulfilling resolution yet installs an expectation for more. Kind of like life; you complete things, return to memories and do what you do, knowing well that there’s an unknown tomorrow to look out for.
In a way, I’m not sure if I’m surprised because Kuu.. turned out better than I could have imagined or is the amazement more about being in awe of the pure talent behind the album and the prospect of possibly hearing more of it, evolved, in the future. Doesn’t really matter as the only thing worth noting at this very moment is that if you’ve ever felt the longing to isolate yourself and take a look at who you are, to actually feel, you’d be ill-advised to skip this beautiful retreat.[Visit the band's website]