Kanaan are a band that Euro heads have been tipping me off to for a while, building a rep as a young band bringing something new to the scene. Would this be the third wave of Scandi stoner? However you count it, Earthbound is Kanaan’s third proper studio album and their first with Norway’s Jansen Records.
At first the cover art had me thinking this was another beautiful El Paraiso Records album, the Danish imprint who put out their first two, but listening to Earthbound compared to their earlier works, I wonder whether the shift of label can also be heard in a shift in sound and approach. On Windborne (2018) and Double Sun (2020), the vibe was very much in keeping with the Causa Sui school of jazzy psych – exploratory and jamming, in Floydian mode – and where there were driving unison sections, this was more in the jazz fashion of ‘bringing it home’ than a riff-ride into the desert sunset.
Earthbound starts with the short Prelude, but from here Kanaan leave no doubt on Return To The Tundrasphere that this explicitly heavier album brings more burl to the party. The song rolls in with a Truckfighters-esque guitar line and sets up for deeper space exploration in Pink Riff with bleeps and bloops, dragging our boots out of the mud.
On Bourdon the jam becomes looser, progressive energy spills over in containment failure. It’s interesting to hear these aspects of Kanaan’s sound reasserting themselves against the more dudely stoner impulses, perhaps this is more where their identity as a band lies, but the headbanger stuff is brilliantly executed and where the two come together, the effect is powerful.
this explicitly heavier album brings more burl to the party…
Mirage resets the vibe somewhat with synth squoodling and odd creatures swirling around in stereo, a moment of strange calm that serves to clear the air, and presumably mark the Side A/Side B break. It also allows Kanaan to restoke the heavy tone in Mudbound, which comes on a bit like a hefty Colour Haze. I worry this may seem like I’m selling them short, but this is not faint praise – the song has a beautiful movement and ranges widely in its (just short-of-) twelve minutes, and while certainly earthy, it’s far from stuck in the mud.
Penultimate track Crash is perhaps where they explore their new ‘ton of bricks’ approach most fully, dragging their feet through five minutes of triumphalist riffing, crashing cymbals and drum fills to set up a final blow out in No Star Unturned. The title tips us off to the space bound intent of the closer, reconciling the Kyuss (green) machine with synth arpeggios and swooshes.
In the press blurb Earthbound is described as ‘a showcase of the three wildly talented musicians as they plow their way through enormous riffs and thunderous grooves’ and at times listening to the album for review, I’ve wondered whether it’s a mis-step for what is clearly a skilled band to move away from their strengths and flirt with the world of the ‘enormous’ and ‘thunderous’.
Reflecting on my Colour Haze comparison earlier, I think my doubt is partly because we tend to associate ‘development’ and ‘maturity’ in this context with a move away from leaden grooves and towards the less, well, earthbound styles Kanaan deploy here. But this record is not a disavowal of Kanaan’s previous jazzy and progressive inflections, rather an attempt to hybridise and as such yet another interesting development of the European psych sound.
Scribed by: Harry Holmes