Yesan Damen – Chronos/Kairos

Yesan Damen

The curiously named Seattle trio of Arick Gouwerok (electric and upright bass), Daniel Kwak (vocals, guitar, synth/organ) and Michael Lerner (drums/percussion, vocals) enlisted the help of many guest musicians and vocalists for their second album of light and wispy indie-twee that draws comparisons to Belle & Sebastian, Camera Obscura, and Stars while a couple of livelier numbers even hint at The New Pornographers.

But these influences are ephemeral as Yesan Damen’s songwriting is more grounded in the lilting, dulcet tones of twee-pop. The sweet vocal melodies, varied musical layers and swaying, melancholic strings provide a precious pop sheen to the proceedings while the lyrics provide some bite, creating a bittersweet brand of indie-pop the band refers to as cursing the human condition with a smile.

Fortunately though, the music’s not all just charming and sweet. Yes, there are plenty of lovely melodies and pretty singing, but there also some driving beats, both programmed and live, and some fuzzy, indie-style guitar chords, that give the songs a bright and colorful boost. In fact the album makes an immediate impression with the first two songs, “Whoa!” and “Monuments To Ambition”, containing swirls of guitars in a sophisticated mix of keyboard effects and indie-beats that sound like The Delgados, The New Pornographers and Stars all wrapped up into one new package.

But as if to distinguish themselves from these other artists, Yesan Damen simmer it down a bit on “Hang On For Dear Life”, “Osaka”, “Suns Will Set And Rise” and “Consequence”. With less pomp, limited instrumentation and more delicate arrangements, these tracks are more finely tuned into the poignant twee-pop generally associated with bands like Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura. But even these slower, sweeter songs are appealing thanks to a variety of intricate instrumental flurries that include some melancholic string passages and tempered brass arrangements. The album closes with three chipper tracks that blend the light and wispy melodies with just the right amount of breezy indie-guitar strums and beats.

Chronos/Kairos shows that Yesan Damen are capable of crafting pleasing indie-pop with elegant orchestrations and an assured confidence that should delight fans of any of the bands mentioned above.

Recommended Tracks: “Outer Space”, “American Riot”, “Whoa!” and “Monuments To Ambition”