Recently I came across a very interesting interview with TWDY, Russian Circles and Maybeshewill guitarists (You can watch it here). They mostly talk about their pedals, techniques, composing process etc. However, what really hit me is that all five of them agreed on one thing – you don’t need a pedalboard size of a dining table to be a successful post-rock band. What you need is harmony and melody. Too bad that many bands seem to neglect this quite obvious knowledge and as a result their songs sound like a show-off contest where a winner gets another useless pedal that makes his pedalboard 10 meters long and 4 feet wide.
Luckily, there are still bands in whose music the content is triumphant over form. One of these bands is surely Hanan, a quartet from Saint Paul, Minnesota who recently released their debut album “Sonder”. Now, sonder is one of these untranslatable words with a beautiful meaning. It is a realization that every person you pass has a life as complex as you do, full of problems and little victories. Such feel-ish accents always suit post-rock music, however Hanan don’t like to limit themselves to genre boundaries. Although they kind of base their compositions on post-rock and ambient concepts, there is a lot more going on in their music.
RELEASE DATE: 05 September 2014 LABEL: Inspirus Records
The songs are so various, so lively and so complex, that tagging them with a genre name would be a serious misunderstanding. Not only is “Sonder” a proper cross-over album, sometimes it also sounds as if the tracks were not taken from one, but from a few quite similar, yet visibly different records. Is it a sign of inconsistency or Hanan’s songwriting genius, which allows them to create music that trespasses the boundaries of a single style? When you actually realize that before Hanan was formed as a full band, “Sonder” was recorded by one man, Zack Sieger, then it becomes more of a latter than former.
As I mentioned before, “Sonder” is a triumph of content over form. Hanan is not your everyday post-rock band which uses loads of delay over the song and then plays the same theme but super loud. When Hanan plays loud, they play in a manner that makes you want to go to their gig and make all your body sore as a result of going crazy in the crowd. They manage to put a lot of wild punk energy next to a cliché ambient. However, post-rock clichés work in a different way for Hanan. They do use delayed guitar, they do give you feels, they do have their quiet-loud-quiet-loud parts. So, what makes them so special? Three words: creativity, melody and experiments. Hanan did put a lot into actual process of composing and arranging, which makes their songs much more than four chords played in a slow manner with an accompanying guitar going up and down the neck. Yeah, if “Sonder” was a pop album, it would top all the charts in like, two weeks. However, their music is even more than super-catchy themes and flawless arrangement. How about a jazzy piano in a middle of an ambient song? Or some industrial sounds thrown into a spatial musical landscape? Or a calm track that becomes a volcano out of nowhere? Whatever you’d like, “Sonder” has it all.
I really like grower albums, which you really have to focus on to actually start enjoying them. However from time to time, it’s good to discover something like “Sonder” that wins your heart instantly with its crisp freshness and vernal ideas. I think there is also something special about albums composed by one person. It gives more space for actual composing and arranging which so many bands seem to lack these days. However, how will Hanan work as a full band? Will they stay a full band and start creating music as a joint effort or will Zack Sieger follow an example of Brian Batz a mastermind of Sleep Party People who remains a one man project with a live band? Well, time will show. What remains without a doubt for me is that Hanan’s debut is an album I’ll be returning to many times, always with the same excitement.