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Boomkat Product Review:
Cult Icelandic artist Stafraenn Hakon chooses to describe his music as "power-ambient", and as oxymoronic as that might sound, it's as good a bitesized account as any of this record. These days, Hakon seems to meld together the magisterial post-rock popularised by countrymen Sigur Ros with an increasingly sharp line in pop songwriting influences and a tight, in-depth production style to match. After a thoroughly beautiful scene-setting introductory track (Minning Um Deig', Hakon launches into the brooding, atmospherically charged 'Second To None', on which his weary baritone plays off a heavily textured wall of guitars that stretches the post-rock quiet-loud dynamic far beyond its default parameters. 'Emmer Green' is better still, racheting the intensity levels into Kevin Shields territory during its most full-blooded moments. A touch of electronic arrangement bookending the track prevents the production from fraying at the ends under the weight of all the guitar effects, but for the most part this is a record that underplays the synthetic elements. You can hear the organic heart of Sanitas in the rustic instrumentation of 'Bright', whose piano, fingerpicked guitars and cello hang together in a swooningly lovely fashion, all arriving before the almost metal-like brute force of 'Val Kilmer' wades in with drums and distortion pedals blazing. A strong entry into Hakon's prodigious catalogue, Sanitas marks a clear evolutionary step for the Icelandic maestro, and his increasing appetite for more song-like constructions is really starting to pay dividends.