Review: Sonder - Hanan
Label: Inspirus Records
Release Date: (Digital) September 5, 2014 (Vinyl) October 21, 2014
I’ve actually had the pleasure of being on the same bill with this band around a year ago. Since then, I’ve been waiting for them to put something, anything out, and now they’ve finally done just that.
To offer a little backstory, Hanan started out as the solo project of Zack Sieger in 2012. Two years later, there is a fully fleshed out band and a shiny new record (on vinyl, even) set to be released (digitally) on September 5th.
Sonder opens up with “Buttons”. Serving as a swelling, shimmery introduction full of reverb and some brief, flitting keys, it welcomes the listener in before fading out to the next track. That track is “Parsimony”, and it is a blurry, whirring, shoegazy mess that’s honestly just an absolute joy to listen to. This is where the record really starts. It does calm down a little over halfway through to allow the listener room to breathe, but that’s because they’ll need it.
“Phillistines” is the first we get to see Hanan’s more mathy, emo, and post-hardcore influences shine through. Scratchy, overdriven guitar starts everything off and the track never really lets up. It’s one of my favorite tracks on Sonder. From there it moves on to the building intro of “Pay Attention”. Along with the effects heavy guitars and warm synth pads that have established themselves so prominently on the record, there’s a surprising choice to include a nostalgic synth lead to voice a swelling, languid melody through the middle of the track. The last minute and a half proves that isn’t the only surprise, with just a moment’s notice the listener is transported back to more gritty, thrashy guitars.
It’s not often I’ll describe a track as “waltzy”, but given that’s the most apt description for “No Face”, maybe that’s a shame. Expansive in space, the electronic and guitar melodies sway back and forth, weaving through each other in a manner that is somehow simultaneously melancholic and engaging. The track manages to only get better as it goes on, and with the addition of a Wurlitzer-esque synth near the end, I was a little sad that it didn’t just keep going for another minute or two. “Frost State” is another track that quickly attaches itself to you. It introduces itself with a wall of sound and arpeggiated melody that runs and bounces around your head like an excited, hyperactive child, constantly chattering and demanding attention. This is one of the strongest tracks on Sonder.
“Widdershins” is a serene soundscape that offers a nice respite from the frantic, excited scenery of the previous track. Its synthy pads and glitchy samples build and move it forward at a steady mellow pace, but avoid coming to a full crescendo. I’ve grown more and more fond of tracks like this that offer a static statement, but still offer a sense of resolution.
“Wolfsbane” is a wash of swelling pads and wandering keys that slowly bubbles up, barely breaking the surface before sinking back into silence before the final track on Sonder. “Scoop”, much like “Widdershins”, is more contemplative and subdued than Hanan’s louder, high energy tracks like “Frost State” or their emo and post-hardcore influenced tracks like “Phillistines”. The track itself- calm, but not sappy or sad- feels like a return to the beginning of the album.
One small critical note is that a few of the tracks, even within the context of the record, do feel as if they could have been realized further, could have been part of something bigger, but remain unfinished. However this is the exception, not the rule on Sonder, and only serves as a small and easily forgivable blemish on an otherwise very strong record. It only makes me want to hear how Hanan progress their sound with whatever they put out next.
Honestly, my biggest complaint about Sonder is that I can’t offer many concrete comparisons as to what it sounds like. Without blatantly copying its various influences, it draws from so many different sources. Sure, there may be one certain part that reminds me of a certain band, and another that reminds me of another, but those parallels never seem to repeat themselves enough throughout the rest of the album for me to justify dropping any names as a reference point for what Hanan actually sound like. The record is an amalgamate of the numerous genres that inspired its creation, while still managing to form its own unique and cohesive statement. But in doing so it finds itself in a space that’s both relatively familiar, but all on its own.
However, that’s as much of compliment as it is a complaint. Doing something new is never something I’ll discourage, and if you share the same sentiment, I think it is well worth your while to check out Hanan’s debut when it comes out this week.
Sonder will be released digitally September 5th through Inspirus’ site and Hanan’s Bandcamp at a Name Your Own Price option. Vinyl copies are set to be released (and available internationally) on October 21st.
You can check out all of the albums I’ve reviewed so far on The Big List o’ Reviews.