ALBUM REVIEW - Christian Kjellvander - The Pitcher
Out 18th November:
These Swedes, eh? They sure can knock out melodies and here, by way of his fifth solo album, is another Scandinavian troubadour with the same knack in the form of Christian Kjellvander. After an atonal and mercifully brief intro, opener The Mariner comes sweeping in, soaked in strings, bathed in baritone and rather resplendent by the end of it. You've another equally enjoyable 30 minutes to follow....
If you loved the recent releases by Jonathan Jeremiah, Bill Callahan or Ruarri Joseph and regularly partake in a spot of John Martyn or Nick Drake, you might be moved enough to embark on this odyssey. Vocally not dissimilar, musically transient and emotionally charged, Kjellvander's oeuvre possesses a bloodline drawn from stark landscapes and the experiences of a journeyman with a tale or two to tell.
So, after The Mariner comes The Zenith Sunset, a somewhat more driven song that's suitably charged with the hum and crackle of static, of telegraph wires and of nomadic travels through ghost-towns in the back of beyond. It's a panoramic trip, delivered in widescreen and is often startling, if only for its adventurous arrangements and choice of recording studio - a remote church in the Swedish countryside.
Not that this is in any way obvious - the beginning of The Field Before starts like a mournful Mariachi lament, before settling into the deeper, darker The Crow. I can imagine Nick Cave slipping this song into his next big-screen production, perhaps The Proposition 2 - it has an expansive yet desolate feel to it and acts as the album's centre-piece perfectly. Basically, pretty much all of The Pitcher has its roots in outback prairie Americana, Brit-folk and, naturally, Swedish melancholia. This is all very welcome indeed.
Although barely 35 minutes in length, there's enough sterling work here to sink a million crotch-grabbing, fin-haired, vacuous pop darlings and still have ammunition for another round, just to make sure. Engaging and descriptive, Christian Kjellvander's thoughtful, reflective tour-de-force is exemplary.
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