Where Electronic Minimalism Meets Orchestral Cinema: Kan Wakan Shares His Vision In ‘Phantasmagoria’

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No matter what your particular tastes in music entail, there’s no denying the unmistakable talent and transcendental vision of Kan Wakan. The LA-based, Bulgaria-born producer, film composer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist introduced his very own class of music with his debut album in 2014 and has since honed his craft even further into the next body of genre-breaking work, Phantasmagoria

It’s been over 2 years since the release of Kan Wakan’s acclaimed Moving On LP, which was followed by extensive touring, performances with the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Royal Blood and Lianne La Havas, collaborations with highly-regarded artists Moses Sumney and Thundercat, and a debut score in the feature film, Dead Draw

After checking a clearly considerable amount off the bucket list, it was time for Kan Wakan to focus on what’s up next: the Phantasmagoria triple LP. The forthcoming album incorporates like-minded guest vocalists and surprise collaborators into an immersive world of organic and electronic production intertwined with the orchestral soundscapes of the Sofia Philharmonic orchestra. 

Named after the word defined as “a sequence of real or imaginary images like those seen in a dream,” the record has taken nearly three years to create with extensive writing and recording sessions between Kan Wakan’s hometown in Sofia, Bulgaria and his current studio in Koreatown, Los Angeles. He elaborated,

“I feel like this has been the most free and creatively challenging period of my life and it has given way to some of my boldest and most instinctive work to date. It’s been a long journey and I’m grateful to make music during a time when taking risks is rewarded and there is increasingly more need for art born out of outrage rather than privilege and also art that inspires the imaginative.” 

While it’s set for a mid-May release, you can pre-order Phantasmagoria via PledgeMusic here. In the meantime, fans can catch Kan Wakan at any of the live dates below and read more of his personal insight in our exclusive Q&A below.

ANNOUNCED DATES:

Feb 15 - Don Quixote’s, Santa Cruz, CA - http://bit.ly/2ixHRrf

Feb 16 - The Chapel, San Francisco, CA - http://ticketf.ly/2ibDGE4

Feb 18 - The Bootleg, Los Angeles, CA - http://ticketf.ly/2jmgsIR

OTW: Congrats on the new single, “I Had To Laugh.” What significance does the song have to you personally?

KW: To me, “I Had To Laugh” feels like a changing of state from one reality to a new. An end of an era. A place where love and obsession collapse and pain turns its attention to the cosmos.

I had this piece of music recorded on an upright piano. I was really excited to work on some music with Rachel Fannan, and this is the first idea we worked on together.  I always admired her as a musician and as I was getting to the half way point of making this record, I felt like I wanted to try something different and collaborate with vocalists I felt inspired by locally. People sometimes ask me if my music feels cinematic because it’s inspired by visuals first, and most times I would say it isn’t, and the context evolves and becomes clearer in hindsight, long after the music is captured. It was different with this song. It felt truly spiritual, and it didn’t matter if it didn’t make complete sense right away…it just made enough sense to know wherever it leads is a place both Rachel and I wanted to be.

OTW: How did your relationship with the Sofia Philharmonic come about? What have they contributed to the content and overall feel of the upcoming album?

KW: I was really excited and honored to collaborate with the musicians in the Sofia Phil. 

Sometimes when working with professionally trained and studied classical musicians, there is an internal fear and insecurity that anything you ask of them is beneath their level and often not challenging or interesting enough, but this experience felt really different. 

They were very openly enthusiastic and passionate about the project, and it contributed to a great energy in their performances, which is the highest form of compliment I could ever hope for.

OTW: If there are overall theme to the upcoming album or is each song different? How do you hope listeners to feel after listening to it once through?

KW: Phantasmagoria has a jointed interwoven narrative throughout. 

However each song is like a room in a long hallway, behind each door is its own reality. A haunted story. 

To me the overall theme of the album is the change of state and the metamorphosis of grief into hope, and each guest collaborator becomes a curator and a storyteller that guides you through.  It is hopefully a message that is personal and unique to each listener.

OTW: According to the dictionary, phantasmagoria means “a sequence of real or imaginary images like those seen in a dream.” How does that apply to the album? 

KW: After having pulled together several of the songs that have become this album, this word resonated with me. 

It fit so naturally to the song’s myriad arches, allowing the conceptual, the through-story and the sonic movement of ideas permission to weave across each space like the path was marked on a map.

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Phantasmagoria Artwork By Leszek Bujnowski 

OTW: What qualities do you seek in your guest vocalists and collaborators, which include Thundercat, Moses Sumney, & more? Any particular collaborative experiences that have stood out?

KW: Collaborating with different musicians, for both live and in the studio, is a big part of what defines what I like to do with this project and producing and collaborating on other projects as well. I believe when there’s continued variation in the music from a compositional standpoint, coupled with variation in the way it’s expressed from a performance standpoint, beautiful things can happen in moments where they meet coherently.

Every musician has a unique character, and their interpretation of the music varies in a way that brings a spontaneous energy to the project that I really enjoy. As long as we can vibe as people and have a shared interest in creating art without compromise, I think the rest is just about capturing that initial energy in a way that stays true to  the moments that first made it feel inspiring. 

I think working with Moses and Thundercat were definitely standout collaborative experiences, as it was truly an exercise in preserving the core emotional pull of the track, even if that meant scrapping everything and starting over a few times in order to get to that place.  

OTW: What kind of set up/vibe can we expect when you hit the stage?

KW: The live set always varies depending on the context. For this west coast mini tour, I’ll be performing with a rhythm section along with a few special guests from the album. My goal is to present as much of the new music as possible. For my album release concert in Sofia, BG, I’ll be humbled and really excited to perform the album in full at the National Palace Of Culture with The Sofia Philharmonic on May 19.

OTW: Who are 3 artists on your Ones To Watch list and why?

KW: Rachel Fannan, Keenan O’Meara and Saigo. All 3 are artists I’ve had the immense pleasure to collaborate with recently. I’m genuinely blown away by how insanely talented they are and can’t wait for what’s to come for them.

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