East Coast nights have been getting colder and colder. Walking outside and feeling the cold air smack you in the face like a ton of bricks usually makes you want to stay in for the night. Thursday, December 7th, was no exception. The key difference on this night, however, was that Koan Sound was back in NYC for the first time in about eight years.
I knew there wasn’t a chance I’d miss this show. Led By Ancient Light was something of other worlds. It was a cinematic masterpiece told intricately through sound. Coming out of a ten-hour shift at six, I was in a mad dash to get to the venue. After a bit of chaotic, last-minute planning with friends, and some typical New York City traffic, I was relieved to finally be across the GWB and closer to my destination – Racket NYC.
We pulled up and immediately found parking in front of the small Manhattan venue. I had been to Racket earlier in the year for Daily Bread’s Invisible Cinema run and was a fan of the space. While going through security, I started to remember how intimate this venue is; both in size and vibe. It was the perfect live setting for Led By Ancient Light.
The Night Unfolds
It was a little after 9 by the time we got upstairs and into the venue. Unfortunately, this meant we missed some incredible opening sets by Josh Teed and Floret Loret. Right as I went to check my coat, I could hear the opening song of the next set – it was Koan Sound. The sound was clean and clear. I popped in my earplugs, grabbed a vodka soda, and braced myself for the journey of this A/V set.
One thing I immediately noticed that night was how warm and welcoming the crowd was. Everyone was there to enjoy this live performance together which gave a strong sense of unity throughout the night. The pace started slow and steady. I took a bit of time to connect with some friends and new faces while we secured a group spot up front and to the left.
I was mesmerized by every element of what was happening. Will Weeks was on a modular rig with Ableton opened up, while Jim Bastow was on a keyboard stringing together flawless compositions. Behind them was a small screen with visuals and art direction by Eelco Siebring and Hans Brouwer. Siebring also handled all the art for the album. This was all neatly wrapped into what felt like an early Christmas gift.
“Voices of Dissent” had the crowd in a trance. With such an intense build, the minute it drops the energy is shifted and the crowd is released. It was around this time I connected with someone in the crowd who I recognized from past shows. I asked him how he was enjoying the show and he told me, “This is my childhood. The visuals are taking me away and I’m here to listen. I’ve waited ten years for a proper set in the States and both of their visas being approved.”
Not long after that interaction, we both recognized the piano melody being introduced and just smiled. “Liquid Levity” is such a beautiful track that carries a jazzy coffee shop vibe. With extremely soothing piano melodies, light-hearted strings, and some LoFi-styled drums in the latter half, this song had the crowd grooving properly.
Later in the set, I was told by another peer in the crowd how happy they were to be seeing their favorite artist again. I asked him why they were his favorite artists, to which he replied – “Koan Sound makes me feel like I’m channeling magic. They’re striking an arcane tone with such a hard moment over beautiful piano chords.” We were all connected tonight and certainly feeling it.
Koan Sound curated an astonishing performance to accompany Led By Ancient Light. Treated to the complete package and even some IDs that matched the energy of the album, I was wondering what was next. The set was coming to a close though and I knew it. You could sense it.
After a quick expression of gratuity on the mic by Bastow, they went on to close with the album closer, “Solace of the Red Giant.” The crowd went numb with expression and took in the emotional last moments of the show. I was in awe and feeling grateful for such an experience.
On my way out, I spotted a guy in the crowd holding a Polychrome vinyl. Upon closer examination, I saw that it was signed. We spoke a bit about our love for Koan Sound and how special it was to get the record signed on this very night which also happened to be Polychrome’s fifth birthday.
I was also lucky enough to speak with Will Weeks a bit after the show. After I thanked him for the performance, I asked how it felt to be back in New York after 8 years.
“It feels amazing, the crowds are always great here, so we have a really good time and we felt very connected with the crowd tonight.”
- Will Weeks
In regards to 2024, Weeks stated that they hope to have many more shows across the United States. You can catch this wild live experience for yourself on the second leg of this tour which was recently announced. This album translated almost too perfectly into a live setting. You will not be disappointed by any measure.