Issue 2017-069: Kaipa - Children of the Sounds - DPRP Inter-review
It's been 43 years since the release of their debut self-titled album, but Swedish classic progsters Kaipa are still going strong with the release this week of their latest album, Children Of The Sounds.
Founding member Hans Lundin talks to the DPRP's Patrick McAfee about his inspirations for the new album, plans for a new solo box set and whether he will ever record again with former Kaipa guitarist Roine Stolt.
Interview by Patrick McAfee.
[Hans] I always try to find one of those great and unforgettable melodies hiding somewhere in my subconscious as a starting point. I often use that as a vocal melody and as the main theme of a composition. Instead of composing a lot of totally different parts and then mixing them into a long song, I do several variations of the main theme. Sometimes I change the time signature, sometimes I write a new instrumental melody, using the same chords, with some fragments of the main theme included, and sometimes I just change the bass notes in the chords to produce another feeling. I think this gives you a familiar feeling when you listen to the music, even if you don't necessarily realise it's coming from the same source.
I work with writing and arranging side by side, and then record it into a demo where I'm playing and singing everything. That's my normal way of working, so I can get an overview of the songs. I have worked with the other members for so many years now that I can feel their presence and feel the changes in the music they're going to perform, to create the final result. The new album was recorded during a long period from August 2015 to February 2017. It's always complicated to find time for the other, always-busy musicians to record their parts, but I was not in a hurry to get the new album out, so that was actually not a problem.
When I started to record Notes From The Past, I had no idea who should perform the vocals. I discussed this with Roine Stolt, and he came up with some suggestions. One of them was Patrik Lundström from the band Ritual. I contacted him and the rest is history. I also had one song A Road In My Mind where I wanted female vocals. I asked Patrik if he knew someone that could sing this song, and one day he came to my studio with Aleena Gibson. As soon as she started to sing the song, I knew that this was just great and I think that in that special, mesmerised moment I decided that we should continue to work together. Our three voices fit perfectly together and are an important part of the total Kaipa sound.
It's not a concept album, just five separate songs. During the summer, I take long bicycle rides on small winding roads in the peaceful, open landscape around my home-town Uppsala. I often stop and rest near some old church. Sometimes it's like I hear music, like anthems from the past, seep out through the walls of the church, but it's only a new melody born in my consciousness and the seed of a new song. The lyrics to the song Like A Serpentine describe this feeling. The beauty of nature is an important inspiration to me in my song writing.
What really made me push the start button this time, was a magic spirit that filled my whole body after visiting a concert with Kaipa drummer Morgan Ågren and his band Mats & Morgan Band in November 2014. I woke up the morning after the concert and still felt that enormous groove filling every part of my consciousness. I realised that I had to canalise all this energy somewhere, so I decided to start to write some new music.
I listened to a lot of music before I started to play in my first band in 1964. Going from simple three-minute pop-songs, to more complex music in the 70s. But I've always appreciated great, memorable melodies. It doesn't matter what genre it is. In the early 70s I discovered that it's possible to take inspiration from classical music, when I heard the band Ekseption, and also that it's possible to play a heavier version of Swedish folk music, when I heard Swedish organ player Merit Hemmingson.
Sorry, but I have to say no. Probably I don't have time or interest in listening to all new music. For me everything I haven't heard is new, no matter what year it was recorded.
We are old friends, and Roine is a great musician, but we have no plans to work together again, but you never know what the future will bring.
I use to say every time a new Kaipa album is recorded, that this is the last album. But for some reason I find new inspiration and start writing new songs shortly after the release of a new album. Maybe the inspiration is coming from all the positive feedback and great reviews. So when Sattyg was released in November 2014, it happened again. I worked for six months writing the new songs.
I am now going to finish the work of remixing my three solo albums, recorded during the years 1984 - 1989 with mostly instrumental music stylistically close to the music I wrote for Kaipa. In 2018 these three albums (Tales, Visions Of Circles Of Sounds and Houses) and two more, with previously unreleased material, will be released in a 5-CD box-set entitled: Hans Lundin: The Solo Years 1984 - 1989. It's a real joy to revisit all these songs and all the memories from when I wrote and recorded them. There will be lots of analogue synths and of course my trademark distorted solo synths that I started to develop in the late 70s. Also, this will include some Kaipa demos and several guest musicians like Roine Stolt, Max Ähman and Ulf Wallander.
Kaipa - Children of the Sounds - Duo Review
If you've heard any previous recordings by Kaipa, there is nothing here that will surprise you drastically. They employ a consistent, old-school progressive rock style that is respectful to the band's past, without sounding even remotely dated. Most of the tracks on this new album are epic in form, and are showcases for the wonderful keyboard work of Lundin. This is progressive rock in its most traditional, symphonic sense, and the expanded nature of the music provides each band member an ample opportunity to shine. Special mention must be made of vocalists, Patrik Lundström and Aleena Gibson. Their excellent performances over the years have made them a staple of the Kaipa sound. It is a true testament to their talents, that they are able to stand out so prominently amongst the instrumental muscle that this band displays.
There is an enthusiasm and adventurousness to Kaipa's music, that is appealing and fully evident on the title track that opens this album. With a renaissance folk beginning, that builds confidently to a frenzied keyboard solo finale, this entertaining song assures the listener of what's to come. A key element of the band's appeal is their ability to effectively combine many different musical styles, to form a great prog stew. On The Edge Of New Horizons is a great example of this variety and one of the best tracks that Kaipa has ever recorded. The song confirms just how underrated a keyboardist and songwriter Hans Lundin is. He stands on par with the top prog keyboardists and it is great fun listening to his solos and the melodies that he writes.
When an epic is as strong as On The Edge Of New Horizons, there is the inevitable chance that the track that follows it, will pale a bit in comparison. That is the case here, but ultimately, Like A Serpentine is very entertaining nonetheless. A bit more mellow than what preceded it, the song is well placed at this point of the album.
The Shadowy Sunlight is the shortest track and a slight change of pace for the band, in that it is somewhat more immediate in structure. The song still pushes all the right Kaipa buttons though, and its more straightforward nature definitely works. Closing the album is the more traditional but multi-dimentional What's Behind The Fields. A scorcher of a prog track that drives effectively towards a strong anthem-like guitar/keyboard led conclusion.
I realise that this review borders on unabashed positive gushing, and yes, there are criticisms that I can make about the album. It is true that Lundin follows a consistent musical mould, and there is little diversion from that to be found here. That said, he and the band clearly adheres to the old saying about giving the audience what they want. Though the band keeps things vibrant, I can't imagine anyone is looking for them to completely reinvent the wheel at this point.
I can only celebrate progressive rock that is written, produced and performed with this much talent and gusto. There are moments on this album that reminded me of why I love progressive rock, and I can't ask for much more than that. Children Of The Sound is an extremely entertaining recording and another fine addition to the Kaipa discography.
Although the line-up no longer features Stolt, it however features the one and only Jonas Reingold (Karmakanic and The Flower Kings) on bass. Kaipa zealots won't be disappointed with this latest effort from the Swedish symphonic prog outfit. They sound fresh and exciting. To me they are a cross between The Tangent and The Flower Kings (just coincidence that Jonas Reingold has been involved with both these bands?).
The thing I personally have difficulty with here, are the lead vocals of Hans Lundin. He has not got a bad voice and, it's been said before, sounds like a poor man's Freddie Mercury. Given 40 years doing this kind of music, his voice still has an amazing, youthful edge but it doesn't quite do it for me. It may be down to personal taste though, as he certainly has the ability to sing.
On the other hand, the main vocals on the title track are performed by the talented Aleena Gibson who sounds uncannily a bit like Hans Lundin. It's a pity she doesn't get more of the lead limelight. This opening track has a catchy melody, lovely bass and guitar and some great harmonies. It is a good opening track to set the scene.
On The Edge Of New Horizons is the longest track of the album, and is a well-crafted song with some excellent keyboard work, that interacts well with the guitar. The drumming by Morgan Agren is superb, and together with Jonas Reingold they keep this track nice and tight.
Like A Serpentine is probably the closest Kaipa gets to a ballad. It is a lovely song and once again we have some lovely harmonies and the best guitar solo on the album.
The Shadowy Sunlight has a folky, medieval opening that gives way to a pulsating bassline, accompanying Aleena Gibson again on vocals. This well-constructed song slowly builds in intensity and fervour. What's Behind The Fields has an ELP-style opening before the lead guitar enters. In some ways this track also has some of the folky vibes of The Shadowy Sunlight. It is a pleasant track that rounds off the album in a satisfying way.
Although a very competent guitarist, Per Nilsson's guitar solos tend to have a homogeneous sound and style, that can become a little predictable once you're well into the third track. Having said that, there are of plenty solos to be had! To me he lacks that 'soulful' edge that Roine Stolt has, and tends to be more about technical virtuosity. But overall this is a very good album.