Polychrome is like Koan Sound‘s greatest hits, whilst at the same time, being comprised of completely new songs. It is a fun, funky and downright groovy time when played loud, and a serene experience when enjoyed with headphones.
Koan Sound‘s return to the scene is unbelievably welcome, even in a year full of electronic delights. The duo who bought us songs like “Funk Blaster”, “80’s Fitness”, and the magnificent Sanctuary EP, announced a while back that they were working on their first full-length album. Polychrome dropped on December 7, and it’s been on near constant repeat for me, flying to the top of my LastFM charts for the year in a matter of weeks.
In Polychrome, the pair has peaked above all of their previous songs, yet not by changing their formula too drastically, but by mastering the songwriting and sound engineering of the record. This album was made for headphones, but can obviously be enjoyed just as much on speakers. Koan Sound use an impressive number of layers in their music, and they’ve laid out Polychrome across the full sonic range of your listening device to really send you to a different planet.
Opening the album is one of my favorite Koan Sound songs – “Cobalt”. This song has a really dreamy opener, comparable to some of the Sanctuary songs before it kicks into a womp-laden funk fest. It encapsulates everything I’ve loved about their previous records and this niche genre: punchy bass-lines, effects that crackle in your ears, and a feel-good factor of 100. On “Cobalt”, you get a feeling that Koan Sound were listening to Tipper‘s Forward Escape a lot during their production cycle, because the level of effects used is on par, if not better, than that momentous album.
“Hustle Hammer” brings in an old-school Koan Sound to the album. Calculated, fuzzy basslines are allowed to roam free at the beginning, before the song combines the soundscapes experienced in “Cobalt” with these basslines, in order to create a brilliant palette of sound for the listener to consumes. It makes you want to groove and rock out, and I’d love to catch this track live to see the crowd bounce. The next track which really caught my attention was “Chilli Daddy”, a track that wouldn’t feel out of place on the Funk Blaster EP. Dipping back into their drum and bass roots, Koan Sound lay out a brilliantly funky take on the genre. You’re inclined to move to every beat, and the song doesn’t lose your attention, even through the ambient outro.
Like many other artists, the duo has experimented more with the classic synth sound and their track “Virtual Light” is a great showcase of how to employ them without degrading the value of your tracks. They provide a guiding sound for the song, but are in no means the main feature. The exceptional bass tones used in this song remind me of my favorite glitch artist Trifonic with enveloping, distorted tones that fully encompass the listener, but in a calming manner.
My favorite track of the album is “Viridian Dream”, a song which really channels the flavors from their Sanctuary EP with ASA. The pops and twinkles are back in the music, and I’m reminded of The Flashbulb‘s Arboreal and Boards Of Canada‘s material with some of the effects used. The song elicits a brilliantly calming aura, much like the aforementioned EP, but, as I’ve mentioned earlier, it comes with a much greater level of songwriting and sound engineering.
The last two tracks on the album, “Drift” and “The Zulla”, also deserve praise and a recommendation in this review. “Drift” again channels the drum and bass influences the pair have – the drum beats slowly building to the front of the mix, whilst strings and effects keep nicely relaxed in the foreground. “The Zulla” is a wonderfully experimental track, again with a core focus on sound engineering. Raindrops fall all around you as moody bass closes out this extremely laid-back album in the most relaxing way.
I really can’t recommend this album enough – it’s a true culmination of all of the pair’s sounds, laid out expertly across a full-length album. You never want to skip a single track, and can get lost completely in the soundscapes presented to you. Make sure to check out their back catalog too; the funk is never ending with Koan Sound.