KUAN On/Standby EPs (Kuan)
Named after a Buddhist term that symbolizes wordless contemplation, Kuan, is a Dayton, Ohio based quartet comprising bassist Bryan Wright, drummer Brett Nagafuchi and guitarists Charles Heck and Paul Larkowski who deliver more than meditative mantras in their latest offering On/Standby, a two-disc ep of aural textures and hues seamlessly pulping math-rock, avant-garde jazz and post-punk into a raucously beautiful mess.
On showcases the prowess of the band’s current line up in almost forty minutes of feverish tight-arsed instrumentation in six tracks while Standby is pretty much a bonus disc consisting of material recorded in 2007 as a trio before Wright’s foray into the set-up.
Imagine yourself stuck in a decaying city enveloped by broken glass and burned out buildings but amidst all that squalor, a bewilderingly joyous soundtrack is heard and you can’t help but dance your way into destruction. That’s quite possibly the best way to describe Kuan’s sound to neophytes, despite concerns of how everything might fall apart at any minute, the wicked intuition from the technically astute musicians creates aural bacchanalia for anyone who listens to them.
Distortion and melodies, the forte of this band – is obvious right from the effervescent opening track G from On, the joyously angular banter between guitarists Heck and Larkowski is ably supported by Nagafuchi’s primal drumming and subtle assaults from bassist Wright. Antiquated Moog synthesizers so often the instrument of choice for Detroit techno heads and musically inclined stand-up comedians, steals the limelight in J as Wright and Larkowski channel George Harrison’s obsession with psychedelic sitar licks, into one hella of a bopping tune. My favourite track is K, the album’s finale, a resonant interplanetary rock epic that glows with a gluttonous surfeit of clever aural manipulation and destined to even make twinkling purple Martians gyrate. Standby pales by comparison to the riveting On (could have been a mistake playing it after the latter). But the disc still has elements of their trademark sounds, and clearly encapsulates the evolution of a promising trio to a mean quartet.
Kuan is essential listening for connoisseurs who dig the intricate sonic landscapes painted by bands such as Battles, Explosions in the Sky, Slint, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, 65daysofstatic, Mogwai, Aphex Twin and Tortoise.