Back in 2012, Melbourne-based, dream-pop quintet Snakadaktal was on track to be the next big band from Australia. They had released a well-received, self-titled EP, and several singles were aired frequently on the awesome, country-wide, radio station Triple-J. The following year, they released their first full-length, the critically acclaimed Sleep in the Water, which debuted on the ARIA charts. However, shortly after its release, the group surprisingly disbanded in March 2014, leaving its five members to regroup.
Sean Heathcliff fronted the band. Nearly a year to the day Snakadaktal split up, Heathcliff released his debut solo EP under the moniker Kagu. The four-track album takes elements of Snakadaktal’s dream-pop but within the framework of indie-folk. This combination results in a dreamy, folk-pop sound that at times is truly exhilarating and mesmerizing.
The EP commences with “Shadow of the Wind”, a melodic, romantic track that bridges the lush qualities of S. Carey and Phosphorescent. “Human”, a track that has received radio play in Australia, follows. At first listen, it’s easy to figure out why this track has become popular. It is, in one word, gorgeous. The sound and mood created by Heathcliff, which he achieves by cleverly integrating synths, echoes some of the brilliant folk and dream-/synth-pop coming out of Sweden, such as the music being created by The Tallest Man on Earth, where the song builds slowly before reaching its euphoric climax.
“The Misunderstood Judgement of Stones“, which is one of the best song titles of the year, takes more of a contemporary folk approach with Heathcliff playing solo on the guitar. The track is quietly beautiful. Heathcliff’s vocals and approach will have Canadian music fans thinking of Joel Plaskett and his ability to make a classical arrangement sound bigger than it really is.
Using the same arrangement as “Stones” but adding synths, drums, and an arousing chorus, “Jacob” completes the EP with a flourish. Like “Human”, “Jacob” infuses many layers and textures to create an incredibly dynamic song. But not only that, it is the one track on the EP that demonstrates how it’s possible to bring together two different genres to create something absolutely stunning.
Kagu is out now on Liberation Music (Australia) and Humming Records (Germany). It can be purchased at iTunes.
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