Despite dropping his first two releases this year, Cankun isn’t exactly a â€śnew artist.â€ť The Frenchman behind the project, Vincent Caylet, has put out a bevy of music under a variety of aliases, including Archers by the Sea, The Pistil Cosmos, and V.
But while it’s not Caylet’s first, Cankun is his most accomplished and entrancing project yet, sitting comfortably alongside both the submerged drone-dub of the Not Not Fun set as well as the battered-cassette brand of escapist psychedelia proffered by the likes of Sun Araw, Wet Hair, or even Topaz Rags. There’s an organic, almost primordial mystery to his songs, as though they were soundtracking grainy film clips of sunsets dipping behind Jurassic volcanoes. They are surreal, mesmeric, and most impressively, they manage to stand out for their musicality without revealing too much behind the curtain.
The Jaguar Dance cassette is Cankun’s first and best release. Opener â€śCoral Sandsâ€ť with its chirping analog repetition never sheds its murky veil, and the rest of the tape revels in the haze. Fortunately, Caylet doesn’t use his lo-fi recording as a crutch or a distraction from subpar songwriting. In fact, for all its reverbed obfuscation, this is a surprisingly intricate release; from the smooth basslines of â€śKids Houseâ€ť and â€śStriking Bicyclesâ€ť to the gradual uptempo transition on â€śCongo Mobile Discoâ€ť and the smoky, fried guitar work on â€śLichens Beat,â€ť Jaguar Dance incorporates psychedelic elements in a drone context, resulting in a work that values patience and subtle transformation over the shallow sugar-rush thrills you might expect from a tape release with a cover like that. Repeat listens will reveal new, subtle backbeats, melodic inflections, and instrumental exchanges. For instance, the title track’s steady drum-machine rhythm will be the first element of the song to attract the listener’s attention; over time, however, a veritable jungle of echoing layers will emerge through the fog, the canopy of reverb belying a teeming musical ecosystem underneath.
Ethiopian Dreams, released on French label Hands In The Dark, is a crunchier and harsher work. More explicitly guitar-driven than Jaguar Dance, it recalls a long afternoon at the beach. Sure, you might be a little sunburned by day’s end, and maybe the heat was oppressive at times, and you wish you’d brought a cooler to keep your bottled water cold, but you still had a fun journey that you’ll eagerly replicate next week. â€śFriends of the Jungleâ€ť is an eight-minute-plus psych-noise jam that doesn’t skimp on the noise; in fact, its clattering rhythm and overdrive-blasted guitars seem especially jarring compared to the following track, â€śCastles,â€ť which comes closest to matching the mellower ambient daze of Jaguar Dance.
Caylet seems equally comfortable strumming a guitar and programming a synth sequence, and his best songs find him combining these elements to create a kind of Rangers-indebted melodic drone. Two solid releases in one year is impressive enough; that these two full-lengths are the Cankun project’s maiden voyages makes me all the more excited for its future past transmissions.
Jaguar: 9/10, Ethiopian: 7/10