Nine months ago, KOAN Sound emerged from a three year release hiatus with their genre-bending album Polychrome. It was a fresh dive into the melody-driven side of KOAN Sound’s music, and showcased a bevy of new production skills and sound design techniques that the pair developed during their respite from the public eye. While they have always been at the forefront of underground neuro music and production, Polychrome was a long form reminder that they are still kicking just as fiercely now as they were during their original foray into the world.
With the summer coming to an end, and a series of long-awaited KOAN Sound tour dates locked in throughout the fall, the pair have unleashed a veritable surprise for their fans; Intervals Above, a five track EP filled with audacious fidelity and production nuance. It builds on the production developments found within Polychrome, but channels the classic KOAN timbres with a focus on intensity and raw power. Each track feels sparser in the composition, leaving room for the development of every tone and motif. Intervals Above is a direct, high-impact delivery of KOAN Sound’s elaborate soundscapes and favored musical modes.
“Strident” opens the EP with washed-out synths and a vivacious, glitch-out acoustic string line. It sets the mood like only KOAN Sound can, channeling groove and melody long before the true rhythm of the song is in full motion. The arrangement follows a practical, texture-rich bass line that envelopes bright pads and gentle melodies from end to end. By the conclusion of the track, foley and synthesis meld into a series of cascading waves ebbing and flowing within the stereo space.
Chalky White, a Bristol-based guitarist with a penchant for accentuating bass music, received a healthy dose of fanfare over his chops in “Chalk It Out” on KOAN Sound’s last album. He reprises his role across the entirety of Intervals Above, most notably on the track “Vibrant”. It begins with a blend of synthesis and sultry string lines that fold into a melodious, staccato breakdown. The song combines salient sound design with a torrent of transient percussion and fluttering arpeggios. The lead synthesis lines meet each guitar chop squarely on cadence, fusing the airiness and presence within the track into an organic, evolving composition.
“Vivid” brings the EP to a gentle close, eschewing intensity in favor of pure flavor. For much of the songs runtime, it is an ambient and reverberant journey into the musicality of the KOANs. Serene, ephemeral chords stack atop short burst of hums and hymns, charging the stereo space with powerful bursts of emotion. At the height of climax, the minute-long flash of percussion fades into the background, and the song falls back into a cushion of synthetic textures and resounding chord phrases.
After years of relative quiet from the duo, it has been an especially auspicious year for KOAN Sound fans. Between Polychrome and Intervals Above, the KOANs touched upon every facet of their musicianship. To make matters even more exciting, they have announced their first set of major tour dates in the last several years, and they are currently slated to appear across the US from September to November. It seems like 2019 is the year of the KOAN, and we’re looking forward to a serious reunion on the dance floor.