Vermin is the new album by Hans San Juan (It’s actually already had its 1-year birthday, but I wasn’t writing a blog back then.)
I am so freakin’ excited by this album! Still…one year later. That Hans happens to have one of my kidneys inside his body doesn’t mean that any of my musical acumen has shaped him as a musician. It really doesn’t. No, seriously. And yes, I CAN be completely objective about it. No, SERIOUSLY!
Upon first listen of Hans’s debut full-length album Vermin, you’ll immediately conjure up inspirations of Pink Floyd. And the influences are most assuredly there. But after a deeper, repeated listen, you get the clearer understanding of the past life Hans is surely channeling. I say past life, because at 22 years old he is far too young to be writing music of such depth.
Early productions of Hans’ reveal a music that is wonderfully wild and unharnessed in a way that is as compelling as it is also screaming out for a little balance of some compositional and rhythmic rules (go to Cal Arts, dude! They would eat you up there! And you would chew the freakin’ scenery!) But I have to say, Vermin betrays a giant step out of that wonderfully adolescent energy into a decidedly matured seasoning that has married those two ideals magnificently (and that, without taking my advice and going to Cal Arts).
At once operatic and romping in the playground of electronic innovations, Vermin seems to be telling a singular story. Themes of death abound, and ordinarily such a heaviness of theme coming from a 22-year-old would give me great discomfort, but having been there first-hand for a bit of Hans’ personal history (that his kidneys were failing him before a successful transplant took place), I see an undeniable correlation between his music and what must’ve been years of contemplating his own mortality (a concept hinted at by the front cover art of Ted Brown). If our pain can’t be funneled and turned into something powerfully creative, then what is our pain for? And THIS Hans has done, so beautifully that his voice, thickened with a choral effect that gives it an otherworldly edge, breaks my heart in all the best ways.
My personal favorite cuts (though there’s not a weak one in the bunch) are:
- Inside Out, which, at forty-one seconds and with no lyrics but is the briefest of chants, is probably the most spine-tingling track I’ve heard in a long time. Here, then gone, a grace note, but not without leaving an indelible mark.
- The whispered prayer and folk tinged Absolutist, the most fragile beauty on the album.
- The larger-than-life finale Charlatan, which touches on themes of redemption (you get the feeling that though he’s talking to someone else, he’s really talking to himself, as well).
- And the opening track, Below The Skin, which is as strong as any of the concept album cuts out there by the ones who do it best (U2, The Who, Pink Floyd, etc.), a bold anthem that sets the stage for grand, tormented, cock-strutting theatre.
It’s clear, though, that Hans is also having a blast, twisting our brains with abstract-expressionist lyrics that take a second, third, and even tenth rendering to decode. And like any one of the most hair-raising canvases of de Kooning or Basquiat, it doesn’t really matter if we ever do. Hans has plugged us into words that are rich, dark, almost gothic, and more multi-layered than most of the 20-something music that’s presently out there. His music/poetry is nutritious food for thought.
And this guitarist/vocalist/bass player is not in the studio alone. With Hans on Vermin are Paulina Franco (vocals), Mario Torrico and Craig Pilo (drums), Glen Rewal (saxophone), Tyler Davis and Matt Tye (engineering), and this ultra-talented crew supports Hans well.
Vermin is theatre, opera, poetry, and Jackson-Pollock-esque philosophy all in one little square package. It’s the kind of album you keep forever, the way you’d never pack up The White Album or Electric Lady Land to give to the Goodwill during spring cleaning.
Here’s hoping that more than just family and friends get to experience this beautiful accomplishment, because Hans San Juan’s transcendent Vermin is worth the world’s notice and more.
Visit Hans @ http://www.hanssanjuan.com. And tell him Aff sent you.
And as always:
Create – even if you’re not an artist
Support artists – especially the independents
Live well – doesn’t take money to do it
And be whole
Angela Carole Brown is the author of three published books, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and Trading Fours, and has produced several albums of music and a yoga/mindfulness CD. Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.