Canada; the true north, strong and free as our national anthem says and throughout its vast lands of beautiful forests, lakes and cities we are also known for putting out some great bands over the years in several genres; Rush, The Tragically Hip, April Wine, Max Webster, Barenaked Ladies, The Guess Who to name but a few. A lot of newer music has been unheard of but through the advent of technology in affordable recording gear and of course social media we are now able to bring more and more great music to light and share it with the world. Back in the day you had to be in the right place at the right time, gig your ass off (ya still do!) and land yourself a recording contract or spend thousands of your own money in a studio, thankfully we can open up the floodgates and hear so much more now than ever before and like their predecessors a lot of hard work goes in to it as well.
From the city of North Bay on the shores of Lake Nipissing about 4 hours north of Toronto we bring to you, Khan Tengri and their latest album, “Aeons”. A lengthy canon of albums spanning various styles of Prog/Ambient/Vocal/Krautrock music that will gladly wet any palette for want of familiarity, peculiarity, and curiosity for want of something different every time, Khan Tengri brings us diversity and a brilliant presentation in this 9 track album. Having spoken with Allister Thompson, who is the brainchild and visionary of Khan Tengri, we both agree that being Canadian our country doesn’t have a huge Prog scene but it is growing in small pockets and underground settings in communities across the board. We also spoke of the fact that aside from bands like Rush and FM that the majority of Prog from our Great White North (SCTV fans unite!) is from the province of Quebec to which they have been producing some great sounds for decades now yet there is a small but growing Prog scene in Toronto which is a joy to see and hear about bands like Earth’s Yellow Sun who are making their name be known are currently down in Austin, Texas doing some shows so all the best to them!
Aeons opens up with a massive song conjoined by a massive title; “At the Mountains of Madness, a) Arrival in Antarctica b) The Disturbing Scene at Lake’s Camp c) The Flight Over the Mountains d) In the Aeon-Dead Cyclopean City e) Fleeing from the Horror“. The title with it’s sub sections is a brilliant story line all on its own and the music is the perfect accompaniment to it. No sense beating around the bush and getting right down to it with a grand entrance to the album with such an epic piece of music. It begins like the dawning of civilization and the emerging sounds of life as the droning synths lead us down the lands of new discovery. The ethereal sounds of synths and bass notes bounce and land with might as the song begins to take shape with guitars coming to light and stretching notes in to the atmosphere creating the static air through your speakers more and more full of creation and establishment. Musically sounding off with influences from the early Krautrock days of the 70’s where anything can happen and as the song travels forth more facets come to light to create that “anything” effect more prominently. A classic and traditional move in the Prog genre to have an epically long song as your first track to invite the minds of the listener to really open up and absorb the sounds full on. Very tribal drumming along with some choral and droning synths that lead the procession for some elaborate guitar work that cuts through the electric air with sharpened skills of a samurai’s blade wielded superbly at the hand’s of its master. At 13minutes we are corralled in to an echo of electric voice as it harrows down and through the mountainous caverns that has brought us to the ending facet of the song to what we may have found within the ancient ruins we stumbled upon. “Kalpas” brings in some nice slow picking guitar with an ever so slight bit of slap back delay on it giving off an emotional feel to it for a few bars then blended in with drums and bass to start us off in the direction of the gentle breeze its made for us to sail with. The vocals are very Tibetan chants sounding as if summoning the earth’s magical denizens to the temple and bringing harmony to the lands as the harmonies are pleasant and inviting as they form a chorus of souls gathered together. The music holds fast on its tempo/timbre and doesn’t stray out of it keeping us in a swaying holding pattern here floating on the clouds and swirling smoothly through the air.
“Dualistic Stomp” stomps in without warning and has the Pink Floyd “Obscured By Clouds” feel to it in the sense of you could easily see this coming out back in ’72 no problem. Some firey guitar work in the background as the song shreds the ground with heavy steps via the solid drumming patterns and rock steady bass lines. The scratchy vocals are a great added flare and spice to the track as creates that discordant effect to it making it uneasy and on rough seas. Straight forward Psychedelic-Prog rock here in this stripped down, no bones, raw power of musicianship displayed in just over five minutes. The ending spirals down in to the watery depths with some swirling vocals to close it out leaving you wondering what’s next and where does that leave you? “The Shinning Sea” glistens brightly with some dreamy synthscapes as the vocals gently fall from the skies as this one flows with a soft shift through the waves. The chugging riff in the background keeps the pace and has you thinking of a soft train passing in the night as this celestial track carries you through to the dawn. The tempo stays consistent and its the vocals that really command the track as the music is just the body to the voice as with many songs but here the vocal aspect is truly the sound you listen to over all the rest. “No Beginning, No End“comes in with a dissertation in guitar work of well crafted notes and chosen specifically for the the song’s introduction. The synths in the background create a layer of blanketed waves for the guitar to sing gracefully over top as they swirl and expand the song’s horizons ever more eloquently. At just over nine minutes this spacial journey takes you to distant galaxies and around its planets as it finally settles down on the grounds of some strange new world fading out to allow you to continue your explorations. “The Holocene Extinction” picks up where the previous track left off but with a much more raspy pull at the guitar strings as it builds up with a voice over reminiscent of the end of Rush’s “2112”. A breakdown list of extinct animals at the hand of man throughout the ages is recited as the music builds a discordant nature to its timbre and reminds us of what we are doing to the planet. Sterile and mechanical feeling it sends chills down your spine with every strained note that pierces through your speakers as the synths scream for mercy while the drums continue to strike down and the guitars stretch and pull with relentless tones. A brief reminder to be careful at what we have left.
“The Celestial Choir Sings “Hommage a Legeti et Feldman” is a sombre tune that rings out as its title says, the Celestial Choir sings. The string sections add the loneliness to the song as you feel stranded and unable to move as the voices air out their harmonious tones to the galaxies before them. Images of fractals in space are conjured in your mind, distant realms where no language you know of on earth is understood and beings of floating gasses inhabit planets that will never be known to mankind come in to play as your imagination is turned loose in this very calm angelic piece. “Maitreya Has Come and All is Renewed” brings you back to earth with familiar sounds and some pleasant musicianship through guitar, bass and synths intro followed not too long after by some drum patterns that has you relaxing and sitting back as the harmonies in the vocals begin to continue soothing your sense of being. This track has a very U.K. underground style that one would find from the late 60’s in church halls and drop ins as the guitar’s effects of flange swirls and abounds the notes briskly as the flowing vocal tracks careen over top of the music. The bass leads a small solo in and around the guitar work near the end and absolutely one of those songs that could stretch on for easily 20minutes or more live when the mood sees fit to do so. “Silurian“, a geological period of earth that was 443 million years ago comes back to life here in this ten and a half minute piece. A very Prog element has been placed here as a song about worldly inception as the last track on the album giving you the feeling of the previous tracks were before the dawn of the planet and what has transpired before life on earth began. Another beautiful track that has the dreamscapes through the sounds of synth patterns overlapping each other in a placid finish to the record.
This album wonderfully allows your imagination to roam freely to other galaxies, planets and even here on earth in a full on Prog presentation of sight and sound. This album is a great introduction to the works of Khan Tengri and I think that you will agree when you hear it that is has many different facets of the Prog genre held within it’s walls as you journey through the tracks absorbing it all in and playing it a second time because it’s one of those albums that just grabs you and sits you down and says listen to this! Enjoy