True originality can be an elusive commodity to come by in the modern music environment. With the number of untapped creative avenues steadily decreasing with every new album release, many musicians merely end up putting their own spins on pre-established formulas. When a band comes along that laughs defiantly in the face of such convention—opting instead to carve out their own path—it’s only right they’re accorded the recognition they deserve. Finnish progsters Kairon; IRSE! are a band who embrace this mentality emphatically. And no, before you ask, I didn’t just sneeze and hit the punctuation keys by mistake; that’s just how they like their name to be written. Ordinarily I would repudiate this as pretentious guff and refuse to play ball, but since I have no moral qualms about whoring out my grammatical practices in exchange for quality music, for the sake of a band as outrageously impressive as K;I!, I’m willing to suppress my inner Grammar Nazi and get on board.
Produced by Oranssi Pazuzu frontman Juho Vanhanen, Ruination is Kairon; IRSE!’s third full-length LP. Despite having written some damned impressive material over the past six years or so, however, in terms of support, this oddball Finnish four-piece have never amassed much more than a small cult following. For a band who write music of such complexity and magnitude, it seems almost criminally unjust that they’ve not received more recognition in the time they’ve been active; the quality of their work eclipses that of many of their better-known and lauded musical peers.
Stylistically, Kairon; IRSE! have always been something of a fusion of space rock and shoegaze, however, Ruination heralds a quirkier, more prog rock-like era for the band. Built around catchy hooks and delicate melodies, the record ebbs, and flows, taking the listener on a cosmic journey. The word “experimental” is often chucked about casually nowadays—in many cases, anything that doesn’t follow a rigid verse-chorus-verse structure seems to qualify as such—but in the case of K;I! it’s entirely appropriate; they are true musical innovators. Drawing influences from almost every conceivable point on the rock spectrum, Ruination sounds like Jethro Tull smashed a fat tab of acid and went wild with a fuzz pedal. Jaunty jazz fusion basslines underpin exquisite vocal harmonies, and the listener is invited to get drunk on a seemingly infinite supply of hypnotic, dreamlike melodies. It’s outlandish, completely left-field and utterly captivating.
Besides its nearly flawless execution, a large part of what makes Ruination so enthralling is the manner in which the band melds immersive atmospherics with out-and-out catchiness. Despite clocking in at a combined 26 minutes in length, openers “Sinister Waters” parts I and II, for example, feature plenty to keep audiences with even the shortest of attention spans fully engaged and entertained. As the album progresses, however, new layers brim to the surface and shape the listening experience. Prog has something of a reputation for requiring concerted effort to digest. Be it through the Yo La Tengo-esque noodling of “Llullaillaco” or the stomping bass-driven intro to “Starik,” however—something that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Queens of the Stone Age record—Kairon; Irse! stay true to the ethos of the genre, while still managing to write music you’ll find yourself humming as you do the weekly grocery shop. It’s a fine balance to strike, but one they’ve nailed.
In all honesty, it’s pretty tough to find much drastically wrong with Kairon; IRSE!’s latest work. At times I felt as though the sound would have benefited from a little more depth, and on a purely personal level, I admit to slightly preferring the somewhat less polished feel of its predecessor, Ujubasajuba, but that’s pretty much the sum total of the criticism I can level here. If you love prog, listen to Ruination. If you don’t love prog, still listen to Ruination and it might just turn you. It’s an unforgivable travesty that this eccentric quartet is as little-known as they are, and if there’s any justice in the world then this ought to be the record that garners them the recognition they so earnestly deserve. Grammar, be damned, Kairon; IRSE! mean business.