Song debut: Kauan – “Pirut I”

As of yesterday, Alfonse Cuarón’s astronaut thriller Gravity posted its third straight week as the top-grossing film at the US box office. In a year full of big-budget flops, its success is rare.

Gravity is effectively a disaster film. Such flicks are a genre unto themselves, with their own horrid Friedberg/Seltzer parody film in the annals. But Gravity is still an uncommon movie, not only because of its success, but because of the nature of the disaster it details. Without giving too much away, the movie’s antagonist is physics — or humanity’s failure to thoroughly understand physics, depending on how you look at it. In Gravity, the basic laws of reality are more than enough to snuff out lives. No villain required.

The movie has obviously resonated with a lot of people, and for good reason. The universe’s basic indifference to human fragility is a scary thing. The blind action of physics also serves as a painful metaphor for the macro-level societal forces that so often wreak havoc on private individuals. Both are scarier than the superstitious subject matter that populates much of the metal world.

Perhaps that’s why the cover of Pirut, Kauan’s fifth full length, clicks with me as well. Though Kauan is based in the Ukraine now, they originally hail from Chelyabinsk, Russia. The band was mixing Pirut in their hometown early this year when an 11,000-ton meteor exploded in the atmosphere overhead. The meteor’s explosion injured quite a few people and inconvenienced many more. Kauan was forced to delay the album while they and their family members were checked for signs of radiation poisoning. The experience affected the band significantly enough that they visually referenced it on Pirut’s album cover and interior layout.

Kauan presumably didn’t alter their lyrics to deal with the meteor strike, though since they strangely chose to write said lyrics in Finnish, I can’t be sure. (Pirut will be available for preorder via the Finnish label Blood Music on October 23.) But even if the lyrics have nothing to do with the meteor, the album feels apropos. Pirut is a deliberate album that, like the movement of celestial bodies, achieves beauty through regularity. Genre-wise, it falls somewhere between funeral doom and post-rock, though both of those tags are reductive. Kauan use inexorable rhythms and evoke tragic vibes, as those styles do. But there’s meat on their bones: as with Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Kauan’s layers of strings and keyboards make a compelling case that “symphonic” need not be shorthand for hokey melodrama. Pirut is not a terrible heavy album on the average, but it isn’t entirely overrun with blossoming harmonies; the album turns dank and ugly at times. Fittingly so. The music of the spheres is lovely, but as the residents of Chelyabinsk can tell you, it sometimes strikes a sour note.

The song we have streaming above is something of an inadequate sample, as Pirut is meant to be absorbed as a single 40-minute composition. It’s a tired tack, but this specimen is nonetheless worth your time.

— Doug Moore