If you watch the audience at a Kuan gig, something unusual happens to the socially diverse crowd that tends to make up their fan base. The punk rockers, prog rockers, hipsters, b-boys and metalheads all react in about the sameway: they start by nodding their heads. Then they sway a little. Then, they do whatever the word ‘dance’ means to each of them. They smile.
When one thinks of post-rock, post-punk, or avant-garde jazz, a word that does not often come to mind is joy. But that is Kuan’s music. It’s their joy, but it never fails to infect the audience. Brett Nagafuchi loses himself in his exultant, wicked drumming. Chip Heck collapses to the stage floor, shit-eating grin on his face as he alternates between shredding and coaxing strange ambient squeals from his pedals. Bryan Wright’s bass undergirds and warms the thunder, stepping with a lightness his bobbing, peaceful frame belies. Paul Larkowski’s lead guitar guides the ensemble with the gentleness and power of the best soloists in rock or jazz, tying what threatens at any one moment to explode into a beautiful mess together into a tight groove, the very thing you wanted to hear, but didn’t know until you heard it.
Kuan is a Buddhist term. It translates as “wordless contemplation.” But it is clear that lyricless as they are, Kuan’s songs speak to their audiences. There is an urban legend that says when John Coltrane would perform one of his trademark hour-long solos while with the Miles Davis Quintet, someone once asked Miles “Why’d you let him play so long?” Miles’s reply: “He wasn’t finished saying what he had to say.”
All veterans of Dayton’s post-rock, punk and jazz scenes, Kuan formed originally as a three-piece, adding Wright in 2008. The quartet’s post-rock, punk and jazz-influenced heavy groove has been compared by critics to Tortoise, June of 44, Do Make Say Think, and Fugazi. The Dayton-based band claims all of these, as well as Miles Davis, John and Alice Coltrane and Aphex Twin as influences. They attract fans from across the genres. Now gearing up for a second tour, they’re preparing a vegetable-oil-powered van to reduce the high carbon footprint of touring.
“ their sound falls in the post-rock realm, with its guitar-driven instrumental nature, but it’s also easy to hear much influence from the jazz, psychedelic, and classic rock realms as well.”
“ Kuan opened their September Residency at The Buddha Den NTRO/XPO with a sonic assault that needs to be witnessed. We’d easily put them up against anyone currently running in the Gem City, as their dynamics and inventive compositions fueled by avant experimentation keep this instrumental quartet close to the edge throughout.”
“Imagine yourself stuck in a decaying city enveloped by broken glass and burned out buildings but amidst all that squalor, a bewilderingly joyous soudtrack is heard and you can’t help but dance your way into destruction. That’s quite possibly the best way to describe Kuan’s sound to neophytes, despite concerns of how everything might fall apart at any minute, the wicked intuition from the technically astute musicians creates aural bacchanalia for anyone who listens to them.” Power of Pop
“This quartet turned in two of the most inspired and outright facemelting performances we’ve ever had the pleasure of hosting.” thebuddhaden.net
“The six song EP…is bursting with intricate and engaging multipart instrumental rock songs that draw from indie rock, jazz, electronic and progressive rock. The new material is definitely a giant step sonically and creatively.” Dayton Daily News
“Kuan seem to be able to jam out in an improvisational fashion, however seem just as interested in piecing together a nice hook or melody as well. It all just kind of makes you feel good, which is odd to say but it kind of puts me in a better mood…..there is plenty to wrap your head around.” www.builtonaweakspot.com