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Kairon; IRSE! straddles old and new on ‘Ruination’

| Friday, February 17, 2017

Kairon; IRSE_WEB (2)DOMINIQUE DeMOE | The Observer

They came from nowhere. The Finnish shoegaze and noise rock outfit Kairon; IRSE! gained significant notoriety in 2014 following the release of their breakthrough album “Ujubasajuba,” amassing fans from around the globe after spending years in the obscurity of the Baltic experimental rock scene. Surely inspired by Scandinavia’s impressive metal output, the album’s colossal tracks feature icy, towering riffs richly evocative of the region’s polar winters and powerful drumming that hits like a blizzard. It was easily one of the year’s best records.

The band self-released “Ujubasajuba” digitally on the online music retail website Bandcamp, an unassuming format unworthy of the album’s magnitude. The album’s success, however, drew the attention of local labels, among them Svart Records, which recently reissued “Ujubasajuba” in both CD and vinyl format with all-new cover art. While the official reissue was called for, it was also executed in promotion of Kairon; IRSE!’s follow-up record, “Ruination.”

From the start, “Ruination” promised grandeur. After years of silence and an exciting record deal, the band released the album’s first single, “Starik,” last fall. The track instantly recalls “Ujubasajuba” with its moody, sinister aura. Like many tracks on the former record, “Starik” experiments significantly with song structure, delving even more into progressive rock than the band’s earlier music. While the track includes more diverse instrumentation – notably including the saxophone – the focus remains on an expertly manipulated array of distinct and vibrant guitars, surely a plus in its own right.

The record’s first two tracks, “Sinister Waters I” and “Sinister Waters II,”are further inspired by prog-rock structures, incorporating angular leads and retro-sounding synth warbles over the course of 25 dynamic minutes. Similarly, “Porphyrogennetos” devolves into a solo section reminiscent of King Crimson but entirely devoid of the band’s signature aggression – though it maintains a familiar cathartic vigor. Indeed, if “Ujubasajuba” were compared to the band Moonsorrow, “Ruination” would be more akin to Kebnekajse.

The ambition is plainly audible on the record, and one senses the band’s commitment to reinvention and innovation. Playing down the prog-rock influence, the title track “Ruination” is a spaced-out funk ballad pumped with high-frequency noise. And “Llullaillaco,” the record’s most concise track and arguably its foremost highlight, is a skillful study of pre-“Loveless” My Bloody Valentine that capitalizes on the band’s stylish, energetic ferocity.

It is worth noting, however, that the record’s best cut is also most out of place. That is to say, the band’s prowess was less reflected in the prog-rock moments than in other sections of “Ruination.” As a result, while the record as a whole constitutes a laudable effort, perhaps the band should refocus its energies elsewhere going forward.

Perhaps more constructively, however, they could benefit from perfecting the sound of their updated aesthetic. The main drawback of their prog-rock execution was its occasional over-reliance on tried-and-true formulae. Both halves of “Sinister Waters” grew occasionally laborious and their use of dated synthesizers felt both familiar and retrograde in a bad way. Additionally, some of the vocals were featured too high in the mix – and were performed in English – mitigating the dreamy atmosphere they created on “Ujubasajuba” and indeed on “Llullaillaco.”

If not quite as refreshingly radical as “Ujubasajuba,” Kairon; IRSE!’s follow-up and industry debut “Ruination” is a formidable work. Departing somewhat from their shoegaze and noise-rock roots to delve ambitiously into the more complex syntax of progressive rock music, Kairon; IRSE! demonstrates a genuine artistic drive that has become woefully uncommon, even in the underground scene. Overall, the record welcomes new listeners and should inspire excitement for the band’s future output.

Artist: Kairon; IRSE!

Album: “Ruination”

Label: Svart Records

Favorite Track: “Llullaillaco”

If you like: Slowdive, Ride, Deathconsciousness

Shamrocks: 4/5

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