More than a Swedish crime novel character, he’d better personify a Björn Larsson protagonist. A thoughtful hero, a wanderer absorbed by his thoughts with a distinctive melancholic gait, a dreamy gaze and dense voice. Christian Kjellvander can be sketched out with these traits: as an artist able to embody the peculiar Swedish melancholy in the best possible way. And, if it wasn’t enough, other important features of his style are a strong dedication to the freewheeling Americana tunes and a grateful attitude towards the most brooding expressions of Brit-folk.
Since his soloist debut, in 2002, Kjellvander has developed a peculiar sound, not too far from his artistic experience with The Loosegoats, but more introspective and delicate. In his latest work, The Pitcher, the fifth credited to his name, the Swedish musician adds to his repertoire an even more atmospheric drive.
The album, recorded during last June in an old Swedish countryside church which is currently the artist’s studio as well as his family home, enjoys the participation of members of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. Their contribution is probably the most important addition to the songwriter’s production. Their presence is glaring: more airy melodies, more incisive and elegant arrangements and an overall sound which can easily juggle between Kjellvander’s moody highs and lows.
The rustic, bearded and frontier appearance, which the musician has got us used to, is softened by brass and strings, female backup voices and by mellow structures. However, next to his omnipresent guitar, it is still Kjellvander’s voice that marks the fire in his work. A voice which recalls Springsteen’s Nebraska or the “Into the Wild” period of Eddie Vedder. As if the lonesome Americana landscapes could mix themselves with the peaceful Swedish woods.
The Pitcher reveals itself as a well-dressed folk opera, debuting with the dark arpeggio of The Mariner and swelling tunefully into 12 finely cut artefacts. Thirty five minutes which move from the dynamic The Zenith Sunset to the more lyrical break of The Field Before. Also touching cadenced rhythmic ballads like The Woods, which is the first single chosen to represent the album, and rootsy tunes like The Valley.
After 3 silent years Kjellvander has produced an album which is able to spiral into the depths with The Crow and to suddenly resuscitate with measured harmonic crescendo with the likes of The Island or choral hymn The Bloodline.
An album lost in the boundless and timeless American West, which has clearly become, once again, Kjellvander’s state of mind, but also an album that rediscovers the remoter and more traditional soul of his native Sweden.
Review by: Marco Canepari
Released November 1, 2013 Tapete Records
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