Keith Canisius – Waves

Keith Canisius - Waves

Keith Canisius - Waves

Danish musician Keith Canisius would’ve done well to omit the lyrics from the liner notes of his latest album. Had he done so, then his androgynous vocals – so heavily processed with various reverb and vocoder effects – would’ve just harmlessly and inconspicuously floated by without notice, much like his songs. As is often the case with music that shamelessly tags itself as dream pop and shoegaze, there’s a fair amount of both astral and aquatic imagery to be expected, and Canisius is no exception to this trait (just look at the album’s cover art). Yet his obsession with channeling the emotive capacities of “beautiful natural landscapes” makes for some especially awkward, if not comical moments. More humorous still is the fact that Waves sets all of these gooey pastoral reveries to music that sounds like a haphazard union of the Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, and Phil Collins-era Genesis.

Consider, as an example, opening cut “You Want to Touch My Eyes”. We are immediately blasted by the thick sonic sludge of a massively distorted/delayed guitar, so enshrouded in echo that any sense of pulse is entirely obliterated. The haze gets heavier as the seconds tick past, and you begin to wonder if this was perhaps a tossed-off B-side that Kevin Shields considered for Loveless back in 1991. The light and angelic timbre of the vocals gives the false impression that Canisius can spin words like fine poetry, but a little research reveals a truth that is not exactly sublime: “Sometimes you walk in front / I know you want to touch my eyes”. At only two minutes in length, the song is a far cry from being fully realized.

Ironically, two of the only truly captivating moments on the disc don’t even eclipse the three-minute mark. “Before We Dive” is a wintry instrumental with moaning synths and keyboards that is the aural equivalent of the type of solitude one can only experience by walking out into an open field during a gently falling snow. “I Used to Live on an Island” is built around a looping guitar arpeggio that harkens back to the minimalist Electric Counterpoint pieces written by Steve Reich and performed by Pat Metheny.

Elsewhere, there’s little about Waves that would make it worth a purchase. Fodder for comedic relief abounds, however. “Ocean Ocean” in an amalgam of the synths from Pink Floyd’s “Take It Back” and the chord progression from Sarah McLachlan’s “Possession”, with cryptic lyrics like “Did you see Michelle? / crying laughing tells.” “Diving Day” is a precious bit of dream pop that sounds like the soundtrack to the summer of 1986, with guest vocalist Isol Misenta using her pipes to do her best Cocteau Twins imitation. The album’s title track and centerpiece has a vaguely Asian bent, thanks to the liberal use of pentatonic scales. Yet with its frosty atmospherics and electronic drums, it also has a decidedly retro vibe that, again, recalls the Reagan era. As a bonus, there’s this little gem of prose: “Hey, I know this guy / he’s not you / sometimes I love you with the eyes / then I know I’m home.”

“We Are in Reverie” might be the only track on Waves that clocks in past four minutes and contains ideas worth sticking around for. With the 1980’s percussion ditched in favor of something resembling a club beat, the tune features the album’s first overt use of guitar, executed in surprising fashion. Canisius clearly knows his way around the instrument, and the song’s unpredictable structure lends itself well to showcasing some of his genuine talent. Again, ignore the lyrical confusion lost in translation (“You the think the same ocean”), and you’ve got a mellow, yet highly danceable electro-pop cut.

Overall, it’s too much of the same. As his liner notes clearly state, “Shoegaze, dream pop, psychedelic, ambient, and electronica mix with Waves. But this is never a difficult sound. This is everyday music.” The album is definitely not difficult, but anyone who needs to get this wordy to explain their musical M.O. should probably let the music speak for itself in the future.