Avalanche Kaito isn’t so much a band as a collision. The music on the cross-continental collaboration’s self-titled debut album fits into no convenient genre I can think of. If it’s post-punk, it’s the kind pioneered by This Heat, shot through with the cerebral structures of progressive rock and krautrock and averse to straightforward melody. If it’s noise rock, it’s the noise of tonal dissonance rather than feedback and volume. And amid the abrasiveness and intensity are emotions too complex for one singularly dark umbrella.
A collaborative project between Burkina Faso griot Kaito Winse and Belgian musicians Benjamin Chaval and Arnaud Paquotte, Avalanche Kaito essentially provide the basic mathematics of their musical storm: vocalist Kaito is self-explanatory, and the brooding rhythm section backing him provide the Avalanche. The general concept is fairly simple, even when the results rarely suggest it—loosely structured yet tense, jagged jam sessions beneath Winse’s fabulist lyricism that wring harmony from chaos, fluid rhythm speckled with razor sharp thorns.
These songs don’t move or operate in the way that post-punk typically does—these aren’t bound by conventional song structure so much as groove. The krautrock influence, particularly in the rhythmic repetition, remains, but Avalanche Kaito’s approach to pop song form is less rigid, less formal. A song like “Sunguru” essentially comprises a dirty, repetitive groove upon which Winse can deliver his powerful vocal performance, while the addition of flute in “Douaga” lends a more atmospheric psychedelia to the otherwise stripped-down arrangement, whereas the sparse dissonance and dark ambience of “Goomde” is downright eerie.
There aren’t many easy parallels for this sort of collab, but it reminds me of few records so much as the debut industrial-minimal synth LP from Belgian/Congolese group Zazou Bikaye CY1, who found a similarly harmonic hybrid between abrasive post-punk and West African music. Where Avalanche Kaito diverges is in the looseness of their doom, the unpredictability of the path that unfolds. It’s as much a ritual as a musical performance.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.