Kan Wakan arrive with a striking breadth of vision that immediately places them among modern pop's most beguiling and inventive new artists. The Los Angeles-based group's extraordinary self-titled debut EP introduces their ornate and enveloping amalgam of psychedelic soul, post rock, alternative Americana, noir jazz, 60s soundtrack stylings, and orchestral pop, all reshaped and rearranged to create something both startlingly original and utterly contemporary.
"KAN WAKAN" - which heralds the band's full-length debut, entitled "MOVING ON," arriving everywhere in early 2014 - is highlighted by "Forever Found," which has already been championed by the ever-influential public radio station, KCRW, as well as by LA Weekly, which recently cited the evocative track in naming Kan Wakan among the "Los Angeles Bands About To Blow Up" in coming months.
Kan Wakan emerged in early 2012, the musical brainchild of composer/producer/multi-instrumentalist Gueorgui I. Linev. The Bulgarian-born musician originally set out to create solely instrumental music inspired by his lifelong passion for classical minimalism, but the involvement of chanteuse Kristianne Bautista and producer/guitarist Peter Potyondy rapidly saw the project grow in both scope and purpose.
"It was going to be a small orchestral ensemble," Linev says, "but I started playing some of this music with a drummer and a guitar player and that naturally led to the need for a vocalist. It wasn't really planned out, it just took a very natural course as I found the right people."
As the core group built upon a truly variegated palette of influences, common musical themes began to manifest, including a epic but cinematic deep soul approach inspired by such icons as Bill Withers and Nina Simone. "Forever Found" - the band's first fully fleshed track - proved the aural template from which Kan Wakan lit out on their exploration of what Linev refers to as "the juxtaposition of song and symphony."
"Once Kristianne was on board the goal became trying to make sense of both worlds," he says. "Trying to incorporate a lot of these different elements into one new thing."
With a name inspired by the word in Tagalog (Kristianne and Ian's native language) for interstellar/outer space, "Kalawakan," the trio was abetted by Ian Anderson (bass), Dannon Rampton (violin), Jesse Aumiller (keyboards, saxophone), and Keith Krey (drums), all of whom helped bring the bold sonic vision to full fruition. At the forefront is Bautista's powerful, provocative voice - described by Linev as not unlike "the lead instrument in an orchestra" - which conveys remarkable levels of romantic nuance and human complexity to songs like the mysterious "Moving On."
"I don't think we strive to create emotional music," Linev says. "It just comes out that way naturally. A lot of it just starts with a simple idea or a few little themes but as we build on that, Kristianne's vocals have this tendency to emote things that might not have been there initially."
Kan Wakan's opening demos earned them well-deserved attention, including significant airplay on the one and only KCRW. Having made an instantaneous impact, the band then spent the better part of 2013 recording at studios around the greater Los Angeles area. Produced by Linev (aka Crooked Waters) and co-produced by Potyondy and multiple GRAMMY® Award-winning producer/engineer Darrell Thorp (Radiohead, Beck, Gnarls Barkley), the sessions were adorned with sumptuous strings performed by the Metamorphosis Chamber Orchestra and conducted by Linev's beloved uncle, Bulgarian Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra music director/conductor Stefan Linev.
"We tried to put no limits on what we were setting out to do," Linev says. "We wanted to put as much of ourselves on the record as possible."
In addition to a sonically evolved take on the original "Forever Found" recording, "KAN WAKAN" also includes the spectacular "Midnight Moon," an elaborate and expansive suite of unprecedented progressive adventurism, presented in two remarkable movements.
"We wanted to create a different experience," Linev says. "I really like music that allows you to get lost in your head. That's hard to do with a three minute pop song. It just kind of leaves you hanging. If I had it my way, every song would be 12 minutes long."
Even as the "KAN WAKAN" EP paves the way for the band's more extensive debut album, Linev has begun setting his sights towards the future. Though eager to continue pushing ever forward, he and the band are equally determined to maintain the same naturalistic and open tack that brought them to Kan Wakan's ingenious, infinite sound.
"We're already ready to start recording new stuff," says Linev, "sort of a continuation of what this is, though I'm sure that's going to change over the next couple of years. Everything we've done has been very intuitive. There's very little planning. Whatever feels right comes out."