Waves by Keith Canisius (Review)

There’s a sense of joy and wonder in Keith Canisius’ music and it always proves infectious and affecting.
Waves - Keith Canisius

When listening to Rumskib’s self-titled debut several years back, I was struck by the duo’s exuberance, by the sense of joy that permeated their recording. The shoegazer genre has often been called “the scene that celebrates itself,” and here were a couple of shoegazers that were truly keen on celebrating.

That same feeling permeates Waves, the second solo album from Keith Canisius (one half of Rumskib). Indeed, Waves picks up right where Rumskib’s album left off: from the very get-go, Canisius dives headfirst into an ocean of shimmering, ethereal sounds, and does so with such enthusiasm that it’s hard to resist diving in right after him.

The album kicks off with “You Want To Touch My Eyes,” one of the album’s shortest tracks and also it’s heaviest, with layers of fuzz and distortion melting together to form the same sort of sonic syrup that Kevin Shields cooked up on Loveless.

From there, it’s a heady dash through such glittery pieces as “Diving Day,” “Waves,” “I Used To Live On An Island,” and “Eternal Moments.” Like his peers in M83, Ecovillage, and Manual, Canisius is quite adept at blending shimmery guitar textures with equally shimmery electronics and programming. “Waves” is one of my fave tracks, and sounds like it’s beaming in from celestial radio station: Canisius’ vocals adopt a Sigur Rós-like tone while his guitars and electronics twinkle and glimmer about in the firmament like a thousand little supernovae.

On the other end of spectrum, the aptly-titled “We Are In Reverie” slows things down just a little bit: rather than take the listener on a breakneck trip through the shoegazer exosphere and beyond, it sits them down and enfolds them within a net of crystalline guitar notes that grows more intricate with each passing second. Meanwhile, Canisius sings something about sailing, waves, oceans, and love signs, and it all comes together for a gorgeously hallucinatory experience. “Lucidity” is the album’s other slow moment, with some steel guitar adding a nicely wistful note to the digitized vocals, drizzling synthesizers, and oceanic programming.

As with Rumskib, it is possible to criticize Waves’ songs for being too pretty, for being all frosting and little else. At times, the sheer excess of gauzy, ephemeral sounds does give the music an ease and breeziness that borders on superficiality. And honestly, a little bit of this music goes a long way: at 14 tracks and 60 minutes, Waves could have benefited from some pruning. Some fine songs in the album’s latter half (e.g., “I Stayed 25,” “Lucidity”) might be overlooked because they get buried beneath the waves (NPI) of sound that Canisius employs on every track.

But when I listen to “Eternal Moments” or “We Are In Reverie,” it’s difficult to not see Canisius in the studio with a big grin on his face as he extracts yet another blissed out wall of sound from his effects pedals, or programs another brilliant pattern into his sequencer. Beneath all of the sounds, all of the programming, all of the waves — there’s a sense of joy and wonder, and it always proves infectious and affecting