KOAN Sound Talk Upcoming Album, Exploring Different Creative Avenues & More [Interview]

The anticipation for the next chapter of KOAN Sound is almost insurmountable. From a new album, to an accompanying story and documentary, the legendary duo have teased what is shaping up to be one of the most ambitious audio-visual projects that the community has ever seen.

Following up on the electrifying ‘Ascension‘  and the funky ‘Liquid Levity,’ KOAN Sound have now unveiled ‘Temple of Fervor,’ the third and final single from their upcoming album, Led by Ancient Light. The track is a radiant testament to the forthcoming project’s unique symbiosis of organic instrumentation and innovative electronica, spanning over seven minutes yet never growing stale.

We had the extreme pleasure of connecting with the duo to talk about their upcoming album, creative writing, touring North America and much more. Dive into the interview below while enjoying the beauty of ‘Temple of Fervor.’

Welcome, guys! Thanks for connecting with us today. How have things been in general recently?

Good thank you! We’ve been busy working on the live show for the album so excited to finally hit the road again together after a few years since our last proper tour.

You’re split between Canada and the UK, correct? For how long has this been the case? How has your workflow changed since the physical distance between you two has grown?

We’ve been working remotely for the last 2 and a bit years. The adjustment was honestly quite manageable; as Jim moved during the middle of the pandemic we had already transitioned to working in separate spaces, so the biggest change was the difference in timezone. We have a few hours everyday to work on things together when our work days align. We also pass projects back and forth a lot.

Can you talk a bit about the work you did with Jim Barr in Bristol?

We wanted cellos to feature heavily on the album, so we asked a cellist we knew in the UK to come down to Bristol and record some for us. Jim Barr’s studio, J and J, has been our go to for recording any instruments or vocalists in Bristol, so it made sense to use his studio for this project as we wanted to get as much out of the cello as possible. Jim Barr was great for this, we wanted to get really experimental in the recording process so he helped set up the mics and hardware effects in lots of weird and wonderful ways. At one point we had the cello going through about eight guitar pedals and a tape delay. The best recordings however were the up close and clean ones, where all the natural noises from the bowed strings came through. We’ve never recorded strings ourselves so having full control of everything we captured was great.

How has this work incorporated itself into your upcoming album, Led by Ancient Light?

We wanted the recordings to reflect what was happening in the album’s story. So we used the dry and up close recordings for the more intimate moments between characters and we went all out with the crazy fx for some of the more chaotic chapters. We recorded piano with similar intentions to mirror the story moments, so hopefully these two main instruments give the listener the feeling of following the two main characters.

We thought that using a fictional narrative as a vehicle for our own personal ideas and experiences would help to achieve the goal of writing more purposeful music.

It’s insanely impressive that the album is centered around an entire fictional narrative! Was this your first foray into creative writing? What was the motivation behind writing the story before the music?

Yes! Writing a story was completely new for us and a fun challenge. The main reason to write the story came from our desire to create more meaningful music. Most of our previous work is quite abstract in nature, and we never had a clear concept or thematic direction throughout the writing process. Only once the music was finished did we typically begin to think about what tied the music together thematically. We thought that using a fictional narrative as a vehicle for our own personal ideas and experiences would help to achieve the goal of writing more purposeful music. We have also always been hugely inspired by cinema and film/game soundtracks, so we almost wanted to challenge ourselves to write something conceptual based on narrative and bigger themes.

Can you tell us what the story is about?

The story follows the journey of two men, Jak and Ryker, searching for purpose in a futuristic society that is devoid of meaning. They are depressed and nihilistic, and are living out their respective lives in isolation and denial. The story opens when the characters receive a mysterious message from Jak’s daughter, previously thought to be dead. The message motivates the two men to embark on an uncertain quest, which brings about a sense of purpose into their lives.

And there’s an accompanying documentary, too!? Can you elaborate on that content as well?

The documentary was created by Jim’s wife Sarah Koury. There are so many different elements to this album, from the initial ideas to the studio sessions, so we wanted to document and highlight the creation process.

As for the cherry on top, all of this comes with a tour across North America! Is this your first time putting together a live set? How does the preparation between this and a normal DJ tour differ?

Our last album tour in 2019 was a live show. The preparation between a live set and a DJ set is honestly not even comparable. We spend months and months working on visuals, lighting, learning and practicing our parts to play, as well as the music for the set itself. There’s more pressure as a lot can go wrong, but with enough preparation the experience is ultimately far more rewarding than just DJing. For the Led by Ancient Light tour we are taking things further with more intricate audio reactive visuals and additional musical hardware on stage.

The biggest challenge was figuring out new ways to make the music and also play it live.

Aside from the distance, what was the biggest challenge in putting this together?

The biggest challenge was figuring out new ways to make the music and also play it live. For this project, Will put together a modular synthesizer rack mainly comprised of filters, effects and distortion units which we are also taking on the road. It will add a new element of live bass manipulation and sound processing to our show which has been a blast to learn and assemble. Combining that with Jim’s live piano playing should hopefully make for a more visceral and engaging live show.

Any last words? Maybe an album release date? 🙂

Thanks for taking the time to hear about our project! We’ve put so much time into this and are so excited to unveil everything in full on the …