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Kaipa - 'In The Wake Of Evolution' Hot

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Written by James Gaden     May 02, 2010    
 
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High quality Swedish Prog-rock.

 

For many, me included, the advent of Swedish Progressive Rock began with the emergence of The Flower Kings. Well, don’t you believe it, because Kaipa were on the scene well before them, indeed erstwhile TFK man Roine Stolt pretty much started his career with the band as a 17-year-old as long ago as 1974 and you can tell where he got the template for TFK from when you listen to this album. A recently released box set of their albums for Decca between 75 and 78 is trading at ludicrous prices, such is their profile.

The band had a hiatus from 1978 until 2002 when they released ‘Notes From the Past’ and this is now their 10th studio album and a damn fine one it is too. Every track is a delight with sublime melodies, themes and refrains being the order of the day along with fantastic musicianship and arrangements that are a work of genius. The guitar work from Per Nilsson (Scar Symmetry) is a revelation and demonstrates that he is much more than a one trick pony that his work with his other band had led me to expect, as it shows deftness and subtly befitting this genre. The touch and feel he brings to the party is special, whether it’s little accentuations or wonderfully observed and delivered solos that fit the songs perfectly.

I am not familiar with their material prior to their reappearance on the InsideOut label in 2002, but I’d say that whilst the previous four since the return have all been extremely good, this one is the most cohesive in sound and composition, probably because it’s not as quirky as the others. The use of three different vocalists (Aleena Gibson, Hans Lundin and Patrik Lundström) gives the band more scope and options and this is aptly demonstrated on the title track that opens affairs as male and female vocals alternate lines at points in the song, and when they operate in tandem there’s a hint of Yes. I suppose I should say that to those not familiar with this band that all three vocalists use the higher end of the scale (e.g. old Geddy Lee – Rush) which may put some people off, although I hope it doesn’t because you’ll be missing something special.

As you’d expect there are several tracks that are epic in length, although they tend to alternate with short songs, and the title track is one of them, but such is its quality that this time just files by. By contrast ‘Folkia’s First Decision’ is all too brief at two and half minutes, but its simplicity is a delight with Fredrik Lindqvist’s recorder playing an uplifting theme over a fine acoustic guitar. Elin Rubinsztein then joins in on violin for the sort of thing that Mostly Autumn were renowned for in their early days.

‘In the Heart of Her Magic Field’ is a jaunty number that features a delightful instrumental passage and a really catchy chorus. Nilsson’s solo is brevity itself but absolutely perfect. ‘Electric Power Notes’ is the centrepiece of the album at over 17 minutes and is very classy. It flows through any number of styles but remains cohesive and again the guitar really shines through and together with the Hammond Organ provides a solid base for the song. When the synth, courtesy of Lundin, comes in it picks up a great theme and any lover of Classic Prog will be in seventh heaven. Of course the inimitable Jonas Reingold underpins everything with his delicious bass and his connection with the stunning Morgan Agren (drums) makes for a very effective rhythm section. Instrumentally there is plenty to maintain interest and the vocal themes are splendid, again time flies.

‘The Words are Like Leaves’ has a great hook and the use of quieter passages mixed with harder sections brings real depth to the composition. I love the switch from the female vocal to male in the middle of the song. ‘Arcs of Sound’ has another wonderful theme that hits you from the opening stanza, although this initial passage is all too brief. The chorus has a retro feel to it but is no less catchy for that. Once more there is a fabulous instrumental section with Nilsson shining, but you can say the same about everyone and they don’t overdo it. Everything seems to fill the right space and the instrumental excursions are always of the right length to satisfy and don’t overstay their welcome.

I am aware I’m getting like a cracked record when I say that ‘Smoke from a Secret Source’ has a huge and memorable symphonic refrain which is completely splendid with the use of violin (I think) adding an extra nuance. The chorus is totally infectious and superbly delivered with the multipart vocal delivery being particularly effective. As I listen to the track as I type I get the feeling of passion that has been poured into the music and a sense of the skill that has been brought to bear in creating it. The keyboards may not be in your face but their presence is absolutely intrinsic to the sound. If I were pushed to pick this would be my choice of best track, but I love them all.

‘The Seven Oceans Of Our Mind’ closes the album and has that folky feel at its outset with the acoustic guitar and recorder. The tension builds to the point where they switch to something akin to a Gregorian chant over which the vocalists spit out their feelings about what we are doing to the world. Yes, this album wears its heart on its sleeve about the environment, but quite right too.

This album is a thing of incredible beauty, which I think any fan of the Prog genre will adore as much as I do. It’s yet another contender for that Album of the Year list.

Gary Marshall

 

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