The Canyon Observer - Figura review
|Band:||The Canyon Observer|
|Release date:||January 2023|
In one of the most unconventional moves of the year so far, Slovenian post-metal outfit The Canyon Observer took a detour by blending with a free jazz ensemble to create some of the weirdest metal out there.
On one hand, it's not the first time I've heard metal of any kind combined with jazz, let alone free jazz. A lot of it goes back to Naked City and Painkiller, there's a lot of blends recently done by the likes of Mats Gustafsson (see this collab) or Colin Stetson (see Ex Eye). And on the other side, metal bands suddenly doing very avant-garde detours can result in some of the worst albums out there. But I feel like there is something that is very vital and intriguing about The Canyon Observer's approach here. Maybe it is because it was the first of their albums I came across, or because I'm not as sick of the saxophone as some people are.
Having since listened to a lot more of The Canyon Observer's other works, there is quite little in common between their usual sound and what they do here, but there are still some similarities. The most obvious one is Matic Babič's harsh snarly vocal performance, even if the vocals feel even snarlier here than on a post-metal background. Vocals take a smaller role here relatively, with this being a much more "patient" album, something easy to see by the opening track is taking its sweet sweet time to get going. The second one is that even if some of the more theatrical aspects of Figura remind me of that specific failed Furia experiment, the flow of tension and release is something that The Canyon Observer have displayed on their previous releases so it's no wonder they can make this sound actually feel rewarding. There's nothing worse than experimental music that feels aimless.
As a result, there are moments that do feel like atmo sludge/post-metal with some extra jazz oomph. But there's more that goes into the sound, and it's hard to pinpoint just one overarching style. Some elements feel closer to more straight-forward classical, some more 20th century avant-garde classical, some more free jazz, some going full noise, and all the possible interplays between these when you add a heavy guitar band to lead the mix. It's quite clear that the extra musicians here acted as more than just session musicians to just perform the extra instrumentation, due to how much the sound and flow relies on that extra instrumentation. And speaking of the sound, the live-in-studio sound just makes every sound more palpable (including coughs and other studio sounds), even if some sounds do inconvenience some others as a result and sound more unpolished as a result. Even with the noise and the guitars, it's still the very cutting saxophones that seize most of the attention when it is around. For better or worse.
Figura may not always effectively use meandering structures, bursts of distorted noise, harsh vocals, live recording, jazz and avantgarde classical instrumentation, and the result is certainly odd. But the ride it takes you on is a wild and bewildering one, one that should crumble upon itself but The Canyon Observer exercise control over the flow, how the sound builds out of nothing and constantly explodes in tension.
||Written on 12.02.2023 by|
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