ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona

Kuunatic ‘Gate Of Klüna’
(Glitterbeat Records) 29th October 2021

Laying down the foundations of an imaginative world of esoteric moon child and harvest adulation, pondered creeps around Shinto shrines and magical Japanese island fantasies on their 2017 EP Kuurandia, the between worlds and realms Kuunatic trio now unleash an even more encompassing conceptual narrative with their debut album, Gate Of Klüna.

In a way more in tune with their new label mates Lucidvox, the Tokyo-borne siren deities transform and then propel their homeland’s traditional ceremonies, rituals, exotic dances into a post-punk vision of the supernatural and progressive.

It’s said (in the PR notes and band quotes) that Kuunatic can’t be easily categorised or contained, fluctuating as they do on this mini odyssey that takes in Samurai Macbeth atmospheres and rollicking drum barrages and hallucinatory psychedelia.  It’s both a traversing and driving musical and voiced journey, which evokes snatches of The Raincoats, Slits, Itchy-O, Au Pairs, Black Angels and Acid Mothers Temple, whilst also paying respect to atavistic Japanese traditions. Because amongst the edgy doom, chaos, beaten drums and spikier punk moments you’ll hear the band’s keyboardist and vocalist Fumie Kikuchi playing a lighter, bird-like swirled Kagura flute, which sounds like a spirit lifting itself out of the heavier brooding maelstroms of ritualistic and ghostly ancestor invocations. The Japanese sound is unmistakable despite where it is taken – sometimes drifting into the Rus and Southeast Asia -, but the scope is large, inter-dimensional even. That moniker itself (or at least the “Kuu” part) derives from the Finnish for “moon” – inspired by the band’s original Finnish guitarist Sanni.

The album comes with (well in the notes for critics) a descriptive narrative; each track representing a chapter in a metaphorical, allegorical and plain fantastic story of pre-Christian venerated paeans, tolled bells for a new epoch and battles with cataclysmic volcanic erupted invaders. It’s their planet, and anything can happen to it; from pastoral celebratory mantra declarations that a Queen Harvest will surely come, to shuttered percussive psych-punk dances and magic mushroom visions.

Japanese music as you’ve seldom heard it – unless you were an avid reader of Julian Cope’s Japrock Sampler guide book -, Kuunatic offer a both unnerving and spectacular vision of the exotic, esoteric and ancient; moving between spiritual realms to conjure up a magical fantasy of doom, post-punk and experimental chanted brilliance.   

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

LP  REVIEW
Words: Dominic Valvona


Monolith Cocktail - Vukovar 'Fornication'

Vukovar   ‘Fornication’

In case the latest album title from Vukovar left you in any doubt, the smutty postcard fanny cover art will confirm that Fornication, quite literally, twats and fucks around with its source material of inspired cover versions. After releasing the stunning visceral debut proper, Emperor, in 2015 (featured in our ‘choice albums’ feature of that year), which romantically but despairingly soundtracked the fall of Olympus, fiddling in melodic melancholy whilst Rome burned, Vukovar followed with a more withdrawn and challenging harder edged LP the following year, entitled Voyeurism. For their third effort, they’ve chosen to bastardize an eclectic but not altogether surprising number of songs; often-gelling two separate songs together in their inimitable signature style of miasma post-punk and caustic shoegaze to create something even more esoteric or melancholic.

 

The opening opiate injection shot, Forbidden Colours, aligns Japan’s famous broody, romanticized crooning indulgence with hints of progressive intoxicants Gong’s Princess Dreaming. The results: a haunted Bossa nova preset Suicide shuffling beyond the ether with David Sylvian’s astral projection. Just a couple of tracks later, Vukovar listlessly expand Laurie Anderson’s groundbreaking avant-garde vocoderised O Superman; adding traces of the obscure French composer and soundtrack artist Jean Claude Vannier‘s L’enfant Assassin Mouches (taken from his 70s debut solo album of the same name) to the mix. Strung-out with only a penetrating resonating single snare shot to wake the listener from the amorphous malaise, the group languishes in a tragic mood until a brief shimmer of twinkly hope emerges near the end. However, one final bombardment sends the light packing as a meltdown approaches. Elsewhere they tether the experimental White Noise workshop with a ghostly schmooze-y finger-clicking Billy Fury on the Wondrous Place/Love Without Sound hybrid, and match Lila Engel by the motorik doyens Neu! with Soft Cell’s Meet Murder My Angel – imagine Bernard Summers instead of Michael Rother , fronting the Neu!.





In a singular mode, but by no means less strange and beguiling, Vukovar play, comparatively, straighter versions of songs by the House Of Love (Destroy The Heart), The Birthday Party (Loose) and The Velvet Underground (Lady Godiva’s Operation). Highlights include a smeared, hypnotic version of the highly influential Oh How To Do Now by the legendary US-airman-abroad-in-60s-Germany, The Monks; which sounds like Can and the Dead Skeletons slurring and removing the urgency from the original’s rampant (Model T) garage banjo march. They also do a killer drug-y haze cover of The Shangri Las’ Dressed In Black; reimagining the original as a Mogadon Downliners Sect sharing a car ride with The Fall on a one-way journey over the ledge at dead man’s curve.

 

Fornication is a curious covers album, an extension of Vukovar’s cult status: The malcontent outsiders totally at odds with instant gratification and a 24/7 all-immersive connection to their followers. If anything they’ve retreated further into the gloom as their reputation gains more attention and welcome acclaim. In an atmosphere of haunted languorous despair then, they’ve removed their influences even further away into often darker and worrying recesses of the psyche to produce not so much homages, but re-appropriate, reexamine and dissect the originals to offer a glimpse into our worryingly unstable contemporary times.

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