For better or for worse, music today lacks mystery. Whereas once upon a time people at a party may have passed around an old CD with little knowledge of the artist who produced it, today, rising artists are often judged on their social media presence rather than their musical output.
Canada-based multi-instrumentalist Keenan Mittag-Degala retains some of this mystery however. His ambiguous moniker Elan Noon and equally ambiguous artwork do not give much away. Rather, he allows his full-length debut ‘Have a Spirit Filled’ to act as his introduction.
Recorded to tape and mixed digitally—at his home and in the studio (with David Parry of the band Jons)— ‘Have a Spirit Filled’ is an experimental, psychedelic record which remains introspective yet inviting.
A student of classical percussion, Elan Noon explores numerous production techniques and song structures on this captivating debut which contrasts pensive acoustic pieces with more synth-heavy psychedelia. The album’s delicate opener, ‘Blue’, quickly lets the listener know that the tone of this album is far from feel-good. Layered vocals echo the line “no matter what it is you choose to do, you’re always gonna lose” whilst detuned electric guitar whines over intricate finger-picking. Like the record’s other acoustic tracks (‘Vexed’, ‘Unwise’, ‘Grim Reaper’), ‘Blue’ feels intimate, emotive and, perhaps most importantly, honest.
Nothing about these themes of loneliness and alienation seems inauthentic or unimaginative. Rather, through his songwriting, Elan Noon maintains a reassuring air of optimism; a sense that in our collective isolation we are together facing the same problems and experiencing the same pains. The luscious synths of ‘Could it Be?’ accompany Mittag-Degala’s reverb-soaked vocals as he questions the insecurities that emerge following a break-up, before eventually reaching a sense of resolution: “So I guess it’s true, I’m through with you, go on and love somebody else”. It is this contrast between sophisticated instrumentation and the fragility of Elan Noon’s vocal delivery that makes this album so intriguing.
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It is fitting that it is only on ‘False Idols’ that the themes of introspection are put to one side as Mittag-Degala is joined by Suz of Victoria-based Bridal Party. This company seems to provide a certain confidence and direction. Rather than self-questioning, Elan Noon offers answers here; confronting the effects of “mass media propaganda” and the “smartphone pandemic”. This track is the closest the record comes to ‘pop’, with a catchy synth hook and driving bass-line that would not be out of place on Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s ‘Multi-Love’.
Although some of the shorter tracks could have been further developed and the experimental production effects between tracks, at times, seem unnecessary, for a debut album ‘Have a Spirit Filled’ is ambitious and original. Far from being polished and perfected, the record showcases Elan Noon’s intelligent songwriting in a raw and direct manner, offering hints that it may be this album that finds itself being passed around at a party in the not too distant future.
‘Have a Spirit Filled’ is out now via Field Mates Records