In Case You Missed It: Kairon; IRSE! – Polysomn
Several years ago I forced you all to check out a terrific band from Finland that incorporates elements of progressive rock, psychedelia, and stoner rock: Kairon; IRSE! In the time since then they had skyrocketed into one of my top 10 bands of all time and I was able to obtain the vinyl release of both of their previous full-length albums… and then in 2020 they announced a third, called Polysomn, whose vinyl I also ordered from our friends at Svart Records. It’s been several months since the album’s release and because I am a master procrastinator, it is time to finally review it. How does Polysomn stack up against their previous releases? And will somebody new to Kairon; IRSE! enjoy their Junior release? I have the answers, dear reader.
From the moment you hit play on the first track of this album, you will experience a rollercoaster of emotions. First and foremost you’ll be thinking, “this is an odd new take on their signature sound. And should we be worried?” But after the first minute passes you’ll feel right at home as there’s an immediate (but not jarring) shift into a song that could easily fit into either of their previous releases. “Why did you tease us?” you’ll be screaming at your turntable. Well, there’s a reason, and we’ll eventually get to that. But let’s not skip ahead…
One of the Kairon; IRSE! staples that I often enjoy is the fuzzed-out, almost brickwalled guitar tones that wouldn’t feel out of place on a stoner rock album. We are treated to several spatters of that legacy sound on several of the tracks on here, just not all of them. My prediction, after listening to Polysomn about 100 times, is that they’re moving away from this style. Yes, the first two songs on side A of the vinyl are easy contenders for a potential “greatest hits” compilation from the band, then things take a turn for the… different.
When you start up side B, or track 3 “Welcome Blue Valkyrie”, you’d better hope the acid is kicking in because this band has gone full psychedelic on our collective longbuttz. Most of the guitar fuzz has been scrubbed out for clean tones and the general feel of the song is that you’re locked into some kind of trance accompanied by visual effects. Granted, the fuzzed-out guitars do make a guest appearance, but they’re not an integral part of the package this time around. Bottom line: I could see this track scaring off a potential, new fan of this amazing band. Thankfully track 4 “an Bat None” brings us right back to where we started. But this small blip on the radar will become more significant as the album progresses. Whether or not that’s appealing will depend on the individual listener. (For the record, “an Bat None” is incredibly awesome IMHO.)
The second half of the album is where I start to lose interest. 🙁
Track 5 “Mir Inoi” just does nothing for me: it’s quite deliberate in its pace, adjusts the “trippy” dial to 11, has no real hook to entice, and just lacks any real bite. I’m fine with this style of music acting as a short(er) segue between more tangible songs, but itself is not a tangible song to these ears (and struggles to justify its 5:05 run time). The following song “Altaïr Descends” feels the same. (This song and the one before it occupy the full side C of the 45 RPM vinyl, which I will be safely skipping on future listens.) Now you might just adore this kind of music, as it’s all subjective, I would hate to scare anybody away from this brilliant band; it’s just not for me.
And the trend just continues: track 7 “Hypnogram” is more of the same directionless psychedelia. These songs which I would hope were just acting as short, transitional compositions, each exceed a 5-minute runtime! Not that the music is all bad: the drums are consistently bombastic and tasteful, vocals ethereal and beautiful, keyboards vibrant; all with a gorgeous sheen… just not my cup of tea. Yet before we consider the entire second half a disappointment, they leave us with a penultimate song of utmost enjoyment: “White Flies”
Polysomn was incredibly difficult to review, because I kept switching from enjoyment to disappointment and vice-versa. But my enjoyment level was never quite swayed entirely to one side or the other! There were times when I thought to myself “4/5” and other times when I thought “not very good”. So in essence if I had to summarize the entire experience in two statements, it would encompass the following:
If you’re an existing fan of Kairon: IRSE! you might not love this album.
If you’re new to the band, you might love this album.
And that’s all I have to say about that. Unfortunately it occupies my least favorite position in their current discography. But also contains some of their best songs! Having said all that, it’s still really damned good and will receive regular rotation in my vinyl sessions. I might normally claim that I’m not high enough to understand what they’re doing, but I’m usually pretty high and don’t see that as an obstacle. If the band reads this review and is disappointed, I will too be disappointed, because I love everyone in said band. I’m not turning in my fan club card just yet! And I doubt I ever will. Perhaps after another 100 listens I’ll become hooked…
Check out their BandCamp page here. Purchase physical copies of their music at Svart Records. Those folks are working hard during the pandemic to get customers’ orders sent out in a timely fashion. Thanks Svart!!! <3