If you’ve listened to Kauan before, you’ll know that really processing what you’re hearing on a given record of theirs can be a bit of a tricky proposition. Some bands are quick hitters, while others work better in slow-burn settings. Kauan, however, has excelled consistently in both contexts. They strike the listener immediately with immense, sorrowful beauty, but their work is so rich that fully “unlocking” a song or album of theirs on your first listen, or even your fifth, becomes nearly impossible. To truly “get” this band, you need to put the time in — and that remains the case on their latest album, Ice Fleet.
Just as it had on Sorni Nai and Kaiho, my “quick hitter” side recognized right away just how devastatingly pretty this thing could be. There’s the clean intro of “Enne,” the juxtaposition of tender piano and synth passages with Anton Belov’s rare, feral howls on “Maanpako,” the gradual, layering buildup around the initial guitar line on “Kutsu”… you name it. The album is full of moments like these.
And those moments feel even more profound given the album’s underlying story. Ice Fleet is a concept album focused on the discovery in the 1930s of a fleet of ships — and their crews and passengers — preserved in permafrost in Northern Russia. This doesn’t diminish the album’s immediacy, but it gives the listener a greater depth of focus. The airy, distant synths feel perfectly suited to a tale from an isolated, frozen landscape; the melancholy in the band’s melodies perfectly reflective of the inherent sadness of such a discovery. The album’s not only gorgeous, but every choice the band’s made on it makes perfect sense in the context of its concept.
Furthermore, Kauan’s ability to tell a story even with largely instrumental compositions remains striking. Belov is a talented vocalist in both clean and harsh settings, but for large sections of Ice Fleet, his words are an afterthought. (As, perhaps, they should be in the context of this story. Imagine discovering that fleet of ships and everyone aboard: what would you really say? What could you say?) In any case, the music generally does the talking, and the album is all the better for it.
I don’t know that I’ve fully “unlocked” Ice Fleet yet. It’s so rich and rewarding an album that, even after more than a month with it, I’m still making new discoveries with each listen. Kauan’s given us yet another record to get lost in — a slow, satisfying burn (freeze?) that, despite its obvious emotional weight, is still absolutely enchanting to continue putting the time in with.
Keep it heavy,