Faten Kanaan
Photo: Lola Serrano / Fire Records

Faten Kanaan Revels in Ever-Molting Textures on ‘Afterpoem’

Faten Kanaan’s musical molting feels more organic than the repetition in Steve Reich or Philip Glass; her music doesn’t rely on an unwavering framework for effect.

Faten Kanaan
Fire Records
24 February 2023

Faten Kanaan‘s music has been compared to that of New York City minimalists, such as Steve Reich or Philip Glass. Currently, the Syrian-Palestinian-Jordanian-Lebanese composer, who was born in Germany and later studied music in the US, does call Brooklyn home, and her music, an at once foreboding and sweeping sonic blanket, involves lots of repetition. But that’s where the comparison to minimalism’s old guard should end. Instead, over five albums and an EP, Kanaan applies her knowledge of piano, which she studied growing up, to analogue electronic keyboards for often lush tracks, as unhurried as they are enveloping.

Her latest album, Afterpoem, continues this trajectory with dazzling, sometimes slightly formal results. Opener “Fin Août, Début Septembre” certainly sounds “classical”, whatever that means, yet, over its brief minute and 58-second life, it morphs subtly but certainly as lighter timbres make way for deeper shades that transform the song into something else entirely. There may be hints of Colleen or Oneohtrix Point Never, but neither comparison captures Kanaan’s individuality as a composer. Her music feels like a soundtrack to human attention spans; we may seem to focus on something for a moment or two, but even as we do, how we hear or see what we do shifts.

“Trenchcoat”, with its repeated, almost cathedral organ tone, is a case in point. It flutters in as if capturing a leaf slowly making its way to earth, but sure enough, other notes appear, as the song never entirely leaves its original place altogether but seems to reposition itself gradually. “La Smorfia”, one of the longest tracks on the album at four minutes, has a blurred hush, not unlike Nurse with Wound‘s “Funeral Music for Perez Prado”, but it mutates ever so quietly, its initial hum joined by painless jabs and layered textures.

Kanaan’s musical molting feels more organic than the repetition found in Reich or Glass; her music doesn’t rely upon an unwavering framework for effect, as Tony Conrad and LaMonte Young have done. Instead, her’s is a minimalism that channels a not-so-odd combination of Hildegard von Bingen’s angelic choral compositions, Polish film composer Zbigniew Preisner’s drones, and the space Ryuichi Sakamoto so purposefully leaves in his piano playing. In general, Kanaan drops her listeners off down the street from where she’s picked us up. We may recognize the surroundings, but something feels different about where we find ourselves by the time her music’s ritual magic has achieved silence.

RATING 7 / 10