Hanan’s preferred timbre may be post-rock, but debut album Sonder contains other timbres as well: ambient, electronic, even a hint of modern composition. The Minneapolis quartet is more concerned with music than genre, and its debut album provides a wealth of sounds that keeps the listener engaged throughout its spread. 33 minutes fly by in dizzying fashion as the listener asks, “What did I just hear?” Fortunately the album possesses a high replay value as well.
“Pay Attention” is the album’s first single; the cover image features what may be the band members in their younger days, or perhaps their parents in their younger days, the details of the photograph stained and blurred. The image serves as a symbol: the old is never gone, simply repositioned. Light hints of prog grace the track, cementing the suspicion that generations of influences have converged on this record. But then – pay attention – the track shifts at 3:55 to something far more contemporary. Is it the album’s best track? The band seems to think so, but a strong case can be made for other selections as well, especially “Wolfsbane”, whose ambient structure makes it sound like the work of a completely different band, or the melodic “Frost State”, which boasts sweet drum rolls and a bright electronic sheen. Even the dramatic overture, “Buttons”, makes a case for itself with piano and strings.
The album’s best trick is that none of these songs are next to each other. This allows Hanan to shift frequencies without disorienting the listener. Sure, one may leave the room for a few minutes, return, and think that another album is playing, but stay in the room, and one is led step-by-step through the sonic forest. These are the sounds Hanan likes, and they don’t want to shortchange a single one. We weren’t paying attention before, but we are now. (Richard Allen)