Monday, October 20, 2014
Album Review: Craang – To The Estimated Size Of The Universe
Ah, the joys of coming across the onomatopoeic band-name. To all intents and purposes, Craang sounds like their moniker suggests they should. The sudden resonant “craaannng” of strings reverberating through a mass of distortion. Actual metal on metal action. Oddly enough, as a heavy band capable of dredging up some powerful emotions, Craang are reminiscent of another onomatopoeic band, Kongh. Despite their blacker outlook and doomier “kooooonnngh” those Swedes definitely share a love for a good wall-of-sound and pounding repetition with this impressive Greek trio.
As a debut album, quite frankly TTESOTU is astounding. There have been plenty of releases of late riding the retro gravy train but this four-track concoction of space, stoner and psych is quite unlike anything that has come before. Yes, some of its content may bear a passing resemblance to Hawkwind, Zappa or Pink Floyd but it actually draws strength from far more contemporary sounds than these. Take “Butterfly” for example. It digs out the kind of sick, splattering riff that Fu Manchu or Orange Goblin might have conjured and rides it until it sinks so far into your consciousness that you cease to notice it any more. You can feel your own pulse begin to syncopate, realigning itself with the music to create a new cadence for you to live by. Not only this, but the cyclical lyric “hold your breath” [or "breasts" as it beings to sound after one to many t̶o̶k̶e̶s̶ rotations] will follow you to your grave. All this, and still the music remains utterly uplifting, infectiously introspective and emotionally exacting.
Throughout, you’ll pick up on the slow, steady development taking place in the layers beyond the drone fuzz brushstrokes. Forever shifting, the picture morphs before your eyes, as much as the album’s stunning artwork suggests it might. Perhaps it’s the warm production, maybe it’s the fact that as a three-piece the sound is spartan rather than busy, or perhaps it’s the little effervescent qualities that shine through, but all I know is that “Magnolia” plays like an absolute dream. You really do feel a certain sense of having been removed from space and time as you go drifting off into the cosmos-stretching sonic wonderland that Craang have created here.
One criticism one might throw in their direction is that they have a tendency to wallow towards repetition a little too easily. Consequently, all the songs bear a passing resemblance to one another – “Slo Forward Jam” plays like an instrumental build to the majesty of its neighbour, whilst the lengthy jam, “The Meteorian”, essentially drives off the same rhythmic pattern that “Magnolia” sets up. What this latter track does sport is some effortlessly affecting dreampop lyrics and an immense section of synth that lifts the whole piece into something incredibly cinematic in feel. You might also catch the strains of a flying saucer coming in to land as they wind up the warble effect to Biblical proportions. The truth is out there, apparently.
There is definitely no hiding from the enigmatic joy, passion and crushing presence that this album carries. The whole is weighty yet the tone remains light as a feather. Quite where they go from this mountaintop remains to be seen, but the safest bet on the planet would be an immediate invite to Roadburn, ProgPower or Desertfest.