Ianai – Sunir Review

Ianai is a “single-entity” project shrouded in mystery. Its secretive mastermind Trevenial offers twelve tracks influenced by folk music across the globe, equally evocative and primitive. With ties to England (mastered by Orgone Studios’ owner Jaime Gomez Arellano) and Finland (produced by Jaani Peuhu), and featuring a classical orchestra and world music artists, as well as a vast array of guests, from notable acts like HIM, Sisters of Mercy, Swallow the Sun, and The Rasmus, Sunir is a debut loaded with potential and questions in equal measure.

While I am poorly versed in the art of world music, I could sum Sunir up as taking influence from the ritualistic and earthy folk of Heilung, the darkwave of Dead Can Dance, and the ethereal post-rock stylings of Sigur Rós. Otherworldly enough to induce trances, but with enough hooks to remain memorable, Sunir is as ambitious as the sum of its influences and cast of collaborators suggest. While its reach exceeds its grasp throughout its bloated seventy-minute length, it’s nonetheless an experience worth having and a journey worth taking in its blend of the earthbound and ethereal.

Mood is everything to Sunir, and it benefits from its vast reach of influences. As warm as the sun-baked Savanna and icy as the Nordic tundra, each track revolves around earthbound tricks that conjure dancing magic – a soundtrack for spiritual journeys. Opener “Savoj Icoil” and “Anaia” are beautiful examples of this, their lush orchestral backbones, mysterious ambiance, and ritualistic drums and flute setting the tone for the complexity of commanding baritone, guest vocalists, and backing choirs to intertwine in surprisingly catchy melodic lines. Built into Sigur Rós-esque dynamic crescendos, it’s a winning formula for a balance of ritualistic, surreal, and memorable, as the more intense tracks like “Ovu Lusta” and “Akrar Adi’re” benefit from a more epic push in doom-flavored drums, while the more contemplative “Khaalo” and “Manda Navaja” offer tantalizing energy in tense percussion beneath sprawling ambiance. In many ways, Ianai recalls a more post-rock version of atmospheric folk offerings like Ulver’s Shadows of the Sun or Gåte’s Nord, conjuring the ethereal with the terrestrial.

Each of Sunir’s twelve tracks is unique, as each offers different journeys and soundscapes to reflect it. That being said, there are moments across Ianai’s massive and ambitious length that simply don’t resonate as strongly as they ought to. An overly repeated choral passage and chord progression rob “Elitha” and “Icheronia” of energy, respectively, while “Vasariah” features far too many jarring tonal shifts to land. Meanwhile, the moody title track is a head-scratchingly short song with too little happening, while closer “Samovela” closes out a multilayered album with tantalizing textures and seamless transitions with a whimper instead of the epic bang it deserves. Perhaps most notably, this album is long, and each track follows suit, so that by the end of “O’zana,” one might be dismayed to find four more full-length tracks waiting. As such, this makes Sunir feel remarkably frontloaded, “Savoj Icoil,” “Manda Navaja,” and “Anaia” the more obvious highlights.

I applaud Trevenial for kickstarting Ianai with an insane amount of ambition, as Sunir is a no-holds-barred and huge debut that feels like a veteran’s labor of love. Utilizing earthy instruments and a grand orchestra and choir to achieve otherworldly aims, it doesn’t feel like simply an interesting listen, but rather a journey. Each track is entwined with a sense of destination, encapsulating a mysterious yearning for better lands or spiritual enlightening. Some treks accomplish this feat better than others, but Sunir embodies the journey better than most, and it’s a journey well worth taking.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 112 kbps mp31
Label: Svart Records
Websites: ianai.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/ianaiofficial
Releases Worldwide: June 10th, 2022

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