I first became aware of Keith Canisius in 2007 when Darla released the eponymous debut from Rumskib, his shoegazer project with vocalist Tine Louise Kortermand. What immediately struck me then was the sense of enthusiasm, ebullience, and yes, even joy that pervades Canisius’ music. There’s an infectious, starry-eyed giddiness to his swirling guitars and soaring vocals, such that no matter how obviously indebted he is to the great ‘gazer bands of yore, you can’t help but break into a smile and nod along as his music fills your ears.
That sense continues on through Canisius’ solo works, including last year’s Waves. However, with Openness Is Dreaminess & Everything in Between, I get the feeling that Canisius is maturing a little and looking to shed a little of the foolishness of his youth.
That’s not to say that there aren’t still layers of pretty guitar and electronic textures a‑plenty in his music, because there are several albums’ worth contained within the EP’s four tracks. Rather, the feeling of maturation comes from the actual compositions and arrangements that utilize those sounds. The structures are longer and more ambitious, and yet subtler and more detailed than anything I’ve heard from Canisius in the past. This is especially true on the second and third tracks, which evoke the same sort of dreamily fey progginess that you hear from Canisius’ fellow Danes in Mew.
On the title track, sterling guitar notes ring out, clarion-like, against stuttering percussion while Canisius’ fey vocals can barely be heard amidst the static, giving you only tantalizing glimpses of whatever he’s trying to communicate. The song picks up speed, until it becomes a breathless rush that may be too ephemeral to be “epic,” but certainly seems to be striving for that distinction. If nothing else, it’s a fascinating song to try and peel apart, with my favorite aspect being the icy electronics that drizzle down on the track’s latter half, electronics that suggest the ghosts of burned out discos and are certainly more interesting than most of what I’ve heard from the so-called “chillwave” genre.
As good as the title track may be, it’s really “Until We Have Sunshine In Our Eyes” that has me excited to hear what’s next from young Mr. Canisius. It’s easily the grittiest thing he’s recorded, relatively speaking. Guitars that seem less Robin Guthrie, and more L.A. strip circa 1988 ring out while Canisius implores “I just want to be on my own/I just want to be on my own in the room.” It’s a heady mixture, one that moves beyond the bucolic atmospherics of shoegazer towards something earthier, yet still with a breezy, ethereal grace (as evidenced by the way in which Canisius sends his searing guitars swaying to and fro).
Is Openness Is Dreaminess & Everything in Between truly a sign of things to come from Canisius? At only four tracks, it’s too hard to say one way or the other — but it points in a very interesting direction. Of the many Slowdive/MBV/Cocteau aficionados that have appeared in recent years, Canisius is one to keep an eye on.