John Woo (who is not even remotely connected to Kwoon) makes movies. His movies are (or used to be HUGE) and frequently opened with the sort of explosive carnage that should rightly go at the conclusion of a story rather than the outset. This is a trick that Kwoon use here, opening with a joyful, blessed out explosion of guitar abuse that would more conventionally sit at the conclusion of a track than the outset of an album. It is a trick that suckers you in before you have a chance to think about it and by the end of the two minute torrent of noise you’re hooked. ‘Great escape’, the second track of the album, is a much softer affair that uses gentle orchestration to back the song which sits somewhere between Radiohead, Low and Spiritualized (with a pinch of Snow Patrol before their heads grew out of all proportion to their bodies) and is utterly, utterly stunning, especially as the song breaks into a joyous burst of noised at the end. ‘Frozen bird’ is closer in aspect to Sigur Ros’ quiet introspection with gentle music that ebbs in the background like the subject matter’s fading heartbeat. In the hands of a lesser band it could be unbearably depressing, but the music lifts the listener out of the impending doom and there is a haunting beauty that stays with you long after the CD has finished. ‘When the flowers were singing…’ is the perfect follow up, more dynamic, yet still perfectly understated, it brings to mind the lighter moments of Low in all their ‘slow-core’ glory.
‘Memories of a commander’ is another slow-building, yet stunning track, with a vocal harmony to die for and it houses hints of the much missed Cooper Temple Clause at their most downbeat. ‘Schizophrenic’ is just perfect – a distillation of all the best elements of the songs up to this point, complete with a scintillating climax that raises goose-bumps thanks to the overwhelming emotion and aching melody. ‘Back from the deep’ is a haunting instrumental that drifts gently from the speakers, ‘labyrinth of wrinch’ is emotionally wrenching and gorgeous all at once thanks to the lead vocal duet which adds a real depth to the song and brings Anathema to mind. The final track ‘Ayron Norya’ builds over three minutes before the drums even announce their presence. Lengthy, yet never dull, and finally exploding into multi-textured noise similar to the openign of the album, it is a hypnotic and outstanding finale to an album that is grand, ambitious and thoroughly brilliant.
Overall Kwoon offers a near-unrivalled emotional experience. The music is epic in scale and yet understated at the same time – never allowing itself to become over-the-top or cloyingly sentimental. An album that deserves to be huge, it stands tall above any number of chart-bothering bands who purport to offer a similar experience. Beautiful, engaging and original; what’s not to like? A work of art.