Phantasmagoria Vol. 1

Kan Wakan

Murmur Music, 2019

http://www.kanwakan.com

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/18/2019

Kan Wakan is the one-man project led by LA-based and Bulgarian-born composer/producer/multi-instrumentalist Gueorgui Linev. His heavily orchestra-based electronic music with a distinctive noir style is a fresh take on trip hop. On Phantasmagoria Vol. 1, his sophomore full-length release, Linev takes his orchestral-electronic style to new heights. He makes it far more intricate, interesting, and original, which is reminiscent of trip hop’s creative peak in the 90s when it saw some of its most iconic releases.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Like a really good trip hop disc, this release is slow and takes its time to grow on the listener. Linev’s “noir” aspect is less prevalent here as compared to his debut record Moving On, as Phantasmagoria Vol. 1 has a sound that is much more rich and diverse.

What puts this record on an elevated level of trip hop greatness is how seamlessly it brings together organic rock instrumentation, orchestral arrangements, and electronic sounds and makes the ensuing mix seem so natural. Add complex songwriting to this musical tapestry and you get songs that are rich with beautiful sonic drama, as is the case with the opening number and album highlight “Unlucky.”

On Moving On, Linev collaborated with Kristianne Bautista as the lead vocalist, whose sultry voice was perfect for the lush noir sound of that album. On Phantasmagoria Vol. 1, Linev’s longtime friend Elle Olsun plays the singing part. Olsun’s mischievous and mysterious vocals work marvellously on this unpredictable and intense record. Her Billie Holiday-esque singing style comes across as emulative, but ultimately, her voice is great, and pairs wonderfully with the jazzy trip hop atmosphere of the music.

Phantasmagoria Vol. 1 is a challenging disc. By the time it reaches the end with two tracks with the least energy of all – the sparse “Hold Me Close,” followed by the minimal instrumental “Lydia” – it really tests the listener’s patience and commitment. But this is an album that you are supposed to get immersed into and not get entertained by, and it fulfills its purpose splendidly.

Rating: A-

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