Kiran Leonard returns with chamber pop album, Derevaun Seraun

Usually known for his experimental tendencies, music deviant Kiran Leonard is keeping it relatively stripped down for his second long player with Moshi Moshi Records. While his label debut Grapefruit was a big-sounding record that channelled Sufjan Stevens’ most intricate work, Derevaun Seraun is comparatively unvarnished. It comprises just five songs, and in all of them Leonard’s vocals are accompanied by a piano and adorned with string arrangements. So this is what you might call Kiran Leonard’s chamber pop album. No weirdness, no arty experimentation – just Leonard’s voice, his piano and a string trio.

But this isn’t your usual chamber pop album either. To start with, it feels like a truly complex and well-thought-out project that transcends the boundaries of the genre. It’s also a truly heavy listen. Derevaun Seraun draws its themes mostly from literature written by Albert Camus or James Joyce - not exactly the lightest of authors.

Like other albums that demand full emotional investment from the listener – see Sun Kil Moon’s Benji or Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked At Me - Derevaun Seraun is touching and awkward at the same time. Listening to it front to back is not a particularly nice experience. This album will leave you on the verge of tears - not necessarily because it’s sad but rather because there’s a huge sentimental load attached to it. Derevaun Seraun was conceived after Leonard reflected on his emotional reactions to certain literary works. Instead of over analysing things, he decided to focus on what’s actually the most difficult thing to express in art - feelings.

As explained in Leonard’s Bandcamp page, Derevaun Seraun is actually a single musical piece divided into five movements. And it definitely feels like one, even though the songs don’t actually flow into each other in a seamless way. They might not even be tied in by a single concept, but there’s still a deep sense of cohesion here.  Album opener “Could She Still Draw Back?” sets the tone for the rest of the record by letting us hear Leonard’s voice immediately after the first piano chord is played. Except for the short spoken-word “The Mute Wide-Open Eye of All Things”, this is a vocals-heavy album. And it turns out that Leonard is really good at singing too. It’s not because he has an amazing vocal range or a unique timbre but rather because he knows exactly how he has to sing at every moment. His Thom Yorke-esque cries in “Could She Still Draw Back?” fit perfectly with the song’s sense of melancholy and longing, and his falsetto in the final section of “The Cure of Pneumothorax” is probably the album’s most remarkable bit.

Just like it happened in Grapefruit, it’s in the longest songs where Leonard feels most comfortable. His musical skills and his penchant for complex compositions just feel better suited to more sprawling tracks than to your typical four-minute pop song.  The way “Living With Your Ailments” builds to its grand resolution is simply one of the most movingly beautiful pieces of popular music released in recent years. Derevaun Seraun is an exceptional album by one of the most exciting young musicians around. It just feels like he can do anything at this point and it’s scary to think that his career is just getting started.  One can only wonder what his next step will be.

Release: 15th September 2017, Moshi Moshi Records

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