The contemporary intersections between classical compositions and electronic experimentation continue to widen and deepen with time, such hybrids have subtly made their way into more ears and achieved a widening audience. Faten Kanaan stands as one such example of this concept in action. A composer and pianist of combined Syrian-Palestinian-Jordanian-Lebanese descent, she’s made five different full-length albums exploring different nuances of what keyboards can do. Her newest project, titled Afterpoem and released on Fire Records, is a rich and diverse, yet structured 13-song suite. Composed and performed on a wide range of synths, it’s a sweeping, yet subtle project that features the deft weaving of melodic phrases to create enchanting atmospheres.
Elegant ambiance is the name of the game here, thanks to the various overlapping musical layers that build upon each other. Kanaan frequently begins with a strong root concept on piano, but she never allows it to dominate the mix, preferring instead to construct appealing scaffolding from thoughtful and playful counterpoint. This approach helps her develop dense sonic textures that hold your attention without feeling obtuse or needlessly complicated. She give the listener plenty to peel back, unfold, and examine but never at the expense of simply enjoying the music.
Afterpoem exults in its ability to feel engrossing to the ears and meditative to the soul. Those core melodic patterns ebb and flow with a hypnotic grace not unlike a boat anchored in deep water. Much like the waves and wind push around the vessel even as it the anchor provides a sense of security, Kanaan frequently experiments with the edges of her sound while relying on familiar meters and timbres for consistency. Thus, each track can freely cavort with tones, instrumentation, and production knowing that they all begin with the same foundational rubrics.
On “Trenchcoat,” a series of interlocking arpeggiated chord progressions performed on a series of keyboards—pipe organ, harpsichord, Hammond, Wurlitzer, and more—combine to form an eerie, discomfiting tune that never quite resolves. With “Ard Diar,” a moody minor key piano phrase undulates high on the keyboard while fuzzed-out synth tones threaten to disrupt the listening experience. “Votive” might be the closest thing to a traditional pop song, right down to its brooding goth rock sensibilities that would befit Siouxsie Sioux’s or Tori Amos’ vocals. As the penultimate track, “Cascando” feels the sort of mysterious and minimalist electro-pop you’d hear in a science fiction movie or cyberpunk video game.
Imagine Afterpoem as an orchestral chamber group created by one person. Putting her banks of keyboards to excellent use, Faten Kanaan fuses together the piano melodies, emulated cello for bass lines, and various strings and woodwinds to fill out the space. While lacking the sort of loose pop structure you might hear in the work of contemporaries like Claire Rousay or Gloria de Oliveira, she provides complete musical thoughts with coherent arrangements that delight the ears. It’s the music you need when you’re feeling contemplative, but not melancholy.
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