Kauan - Sorni Nai
Blood Music
7 songs (52'01")
Release year: 2015
Reviewed by Alex

There is this Russian saying “learn for as long as you live”. It is nice to learn an interesting fact from something you love, in my case from listening to an album I needed to review. In the process of discovery Kauan’s Sorni Nai I learned about an incident which happened at a remote Dyatlov pass in Northern Ural Mountains in 1959. Turns out back then a group of about ten or dozen mountain hikers went missing in the area. The group was led by Igor Dyatlov and that was the reason why that remote pass got its name. After searching it was discovered that the group’s demise was accompanied by mysterious circumstances. The hikers’ tent was torn from inside out, they left it in a hurry, in the middle of a night, and some had their clothes and shoes missing. They all died, some from hypothermia, some wearing scraps of others’ clothes, meaning they have survived original trouble, but some had traces of blunt force trauma affecting bodies with significant force. After some investigation the authorities concluded the “unknown compelling force” was responsible. Leave it to the Soviet authorities to keep an investigation under wraps, take it from somebody who was sixteen and grew only 50 km away from the Chernobyl atomic plant when that accident happened. Some theories were put out about the reason Dyatlov expedition perished, and most likely a sudden nearby avalanche was the cause, but for a while secret military technology, hostile natives or even local rampaging Yeti were mentioned as possibilities. Thus, the air of mystery and fear stayed with the accident.

Before listening to the full album I got a chance to watch a video to the opener track Akva. Set to the landscapes of harsh winter full of frozen snowy fields, we get to see documentary pictures of young people, captured in black-and-white, looking indeed as if they were shot in the 50s. Not sure if these are the pictures of the Dyatlov group (probably not), but you see happy exuberant people, and if you imagine it is the late hikers, you hold your breath thinking about the fate they are to experience, being ripped away from life by a tragedy.

The music, although broken up in seven tracks, may as well have been one continuous journey. The track outlines are very much symbolic in these ambient floating compositions. With a few female oh-ahs, tracks like Akva are just descriptions of quiet creepy serenity. Kauan employs viola full-time in its lineup and this instrument plays a number of beautiful melodies (Kit, At) accompanied by clap percussion. Listening to Sorni Nai, you can't help but generate mental pictures of majestic, vast, unconquered nature. Only rarely acoustics and bass announce some ominous signs, coupled with some harsh vocals, and the signs of violence are not appearing until track 6, Khot. And so it goes for Kauan, introspective, full-bodied and symphonic. Guitars actually provide some cocooned warmer shroud, projecting some earthiness and warmth, while piano pumps in the coldness, and viola stands for withdrawn serenity. Vocally, there are a few harsh whispers here and there, some Soviet era radio Russian language samples, and some disturbing/spiritual voices in At. Other than that, Kauan does not intend to provide enough clues as to what they think happened with the Dyatlov expedition, which is unfortunate, the opportunity to infer something even more mysterious is not explored, although the band’s version of Moonlight Sonata played after an angry outburst in Khot is very chilling. Maybe it was some unknown form of life who was responsible after all…

The more important fact, Sorni Nai does not bear down on you with tediousness, although that potential is of course there on an hour long ambient album. I don't quite understand why the band originally from Chelyabinsk, Russia, but now residing in my native Kiev, Ukraine, chooses to have lyrics in Finnish. Nevertheless, the body of work I heard on Sorni Nai was of utmost quality, even if I didn't entirely comprehend their version of the storyline, and didn't feel the steadily building pressure. Instead, the album gives an opportunity to abstract from the outside existence for the aforementioned hour and marvel at North Russian nature while thinking of the story which served as an inspiration.

Killing Songs :
You will accept it as a whole or not
Alex quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Kauan that we have reviewed:
Kauan - Tietäjän Laulu reviewed by Goat and quoted 82 / 100
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