Kan Wakan's sound on their recent Moving On album, a stew of stirring strings, classic rock organs, gleaming guitarwork and sensual vocals, seemed like it would be difficult to pull off in a live setting. But my first time seeing the band, June 18 at the store, showed just how skilled the band is at taking a heady and heavily orchestrated sound and making it work live. Beginning with cool polyrhythms and arpeggiating synths, singer Kristianne Bautista's vocals sounded husky and soulful one second, lilting the next, reminiscent of Bjork in their elasticity. Kan Wakan's sound is decidedly not small, playing as a seven-piece and creating grandiosity with surging crescendos, bells and tribal drums. Their songs sway and move, sultry and mysterious, oceanic amid surging guitars and crashing cymbals. The overall effect and intention seems to me to stir something up in you rather than smack you upside the head with something catchy, a nice antidote to the flood of overly excitable indie pop bands in L.A. Bautista's vocals were sometimes muffled by all the sci-fi synths and other craziness but would come through loudly every so often with a breathy forcefulness. For a band that trades in atmospherics and post-rock vibes, live, they're as gripping as a punk band.
See more photos from the show here.