Havan - Yajna [Cyclic Law - 2013]Taking its name from a Sanskrit word used to describe fire rituals and sacrifices in the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist traditions, Havan is the new project led by Cyclic Law label boss and all-round artist Frédéric Arbour (Visions, Longing for Dawn), whose first album, ‘Yajna’ – another Sanskrit word with a very similar meaning –, has recently been released on Frédéric’s own imprint. Meant as a collaborative effort, the one-track, twenty-nine minute album sees the Montrealer join forces with fellow Canadian Harlow MacFarlane (Funerary Call) and San Francisco-based violinist and photographer Sarah Rosalina Brady (Amber Asylum) for, as they themselves put it, an exploration into the channelling of sonic energies. The album, which features analogue synthesizers, guitar, gongs, bells, voice and electric violin, was recorded during a live ritual in November 2012.
The moment the music starts flowing from your speakers, you cannot but immediately recognise the distinct sweeping, all-engulfing soundscapes favoured by Frédéric in his previous band Visions and the minimalist nature of most of his output, which is more often than not lost in a swirling blur of space ambience, a trademark sound that has almost become the man’s signature. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that it should really take a couple of listens before you start clearly distinguishing the diverse elements that come into the mix – the quality of which is testament to Frédéric’s skills behind the mixing desk – and explains why this album is best listened to through headphones, if only for the first couple of times.
For nearly half-an-hour, the listener will find themselves transposed into a parallel universe that seems to embody the trio’s vision and mindset with terrific precision and has an unparalleled ability to send the mind wandering into spheres unknown, here mysterious and grandiose, there shivering and towering. The power of evocation that is being achieved is at times quite frankly numbing given the somewhat sparse nature of the sound palette. That doesn’t mean it’s all flawless, of course, and there are indeed moments where the one-dimensional nature of the material does make itself felt, but given the rather limited playing time, this is really a minor issue.
It is a pity that Frédéric is too busy running his label and mastering business to be able to put out more material as all of his forays on the other side of the mixing desk have met with raving reviews and I am sure the man has a great deal more to tell on a purely musical plane. For those who’ve enjoyed his previous offerings, at least, ‘Yajna’, which comes in a six-panel digipack and is limited to 600 exemplars, should serve as a perfect appetite-easer for some time to come.