Faten Kanaan “A Mythology of Circles”

Faten Kanaan is as much a storyteller as she is an artist or musician. A Mythology of Circles sounds timeless, an album as much rooted in the past as it is a soundtrack for a distant future where technological advancement has stripped the world bare. Kanaan weaves countless layers – all impressively played live without looping or sequencing – into a stunning sonic landscape, chronicling a civilization that rises and falls in succession, over and over again.

Immediately, the opening track “Patagonia Motet 1 – Lago” pulls you into Kanaan’s world. Layering vocal samples into a bizarre yet enchanting mechanized choir, it sounds like a 22nd century take on Gregorian chants. Using an array of voice tones, it turns into a haunting, genderless and amorphous invitation. “Hesperides” emanates a fading hope as the tone of repetition shifts midway through, acting as a turning point in the fight to hang onto something better. 

Each song is a vignette in the wider story. With the album split into two sides – the ‘dusk to evening’ side and the ‘underworld/dream-state’ side, you end up passing through various times and histories. Floating on the surface while peering into the depths like a glass-bottomed boat, “Sleepwalker,” hypnotically dances through intricate underwater motions drawn by woodwind (or string) synths where subtle shifts in the patterns pull you deeper into the mirage. Dreamlike in effect, it exudes Kanaan’s playful nature that’s present throughout A Mythology of Circles. While this is intricate, serious music it’s fun and playful, too. Kanaan’s ability to walk the tightrope between both sides impresses and when the plucked string arrangements on “Erowhen” flirt with ren-faire vibes, it works because underneath is a dark, open maw of heady bass drones.

I find myself returning to A Mythology of Circles over and over, especially in the early morning hours when I can’t sleep. It sets my mind racing through futuristic corridors that still feel organic, still long for human touch. Faten Kanaan uses the myths of Ishtar, Orpheus, and others as a starting point but ends writing her own future history. A Mythology of Circles is a stunning achievement; an electronic album unlike any I’ve heard in ages. My only regret is that I just heard it in the last couple weeks as it surely would have been one of my top choices last year. Incredible.