Personnel: Christian Kjellvander (vocals, guitar, piano, Fender Rhodes piano, synthesizer, vibraphone, percussion); Scout Kjellvander (vocals); Pelle Andersson (piano, Fender Rhodes piano, Hammond b-3 organ, synthesizer); Ruben Engzell (piano); Per Nordmerk (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Craig Schumacher.
Recording information: Kjellvander Residence (2016-04-25_2016-05-03&2016-).
Photographer: Peter Pousard.
A Village: Natural Light is Swedish singer/songwriter Christian Kjellvander's second offering for the excellent Tapete label and seventh overall. His 2013 label debut, The Pitcher, looked at home as a physical and metaphorical place, with an Odysseus-like gaze of longing for return. By turns this set is built from the ground up, rooted in a much more intimate and physical space. These songs examine all that come with that: gratitude, doubt, love, family, community, etc. Kjellvander even recorded it at home, as a way to underscore what he knows: That there are seasons when all one can do is ride it out. To make his songs reflect the earthy, bloody truth in this, he took a part-time job in a graveyard.
The grain in Kjellvander's voice lies between Tindersticks' Stuart Staples' and Richard Buckner's. His narratives and poetics are skeletal and poignant, imagistic and spellbinding. (Think the Gene Clark of White Light.) His arrangements are economical, imaginative, spacious, and always quietly elegant. The wafting textures of acoustic pianos, strummed guitars, and ambient sounds on "The Shallow Sea" frame his vocal and Karla-Therese Kjellvander's glorious harmony. It's a love song, an offer of shared burden when everyday life gets too rough for one person to bear. That's extended in "Dark Ain't That Dark." Its musical spell is woven from '70s L.A. country and ghostly Nashville studio soul: "Is there anything left you wanna see?/We are all under the same sky/We are all walking goodbyes.The dark ain't that dark when there's more than one heart...." "Midsummer" is more urgent, darker. Its backbone is a Hammond novachord drone surrounded by insistent drums, piercing guitars, and Fleetwood Mac-esque harmonies. "Riders in the Rain" looks back at life from the other side without regret. Its protagonist exhorts the beloved to: "Forget me when I'm gone/I was never here/Burn my house to the ground/and watch my neighbors shed no tears.." The lyric in "Misanthrope River" reflects returning to the earth itself after death. Its music swirls together Americana-tinged blues, spooky gospel, and nocturnal psychedelia. "Staghorn Sumac" recalls the hypnotic minimal grooves of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, completed by a muted saxophone break amid its jazzy drumming and sultry, doomy piano/guitar vamp. "Good Child" is also based in blues, its lyric a poignant acknowledgment of love as the only brace against the world outside. It builds in tension with edgy lead guitars that erupt then dissipate amid sweet backing vocals and vibraphones. Closer "Gallow" is bittersweet Americana sung in a tender duet by Christian and Karla-Therese; it offers the hard-won truth of love shared in a wasteland. A Village: Natural Light extends a formidable, thoroughly beautiful body of work from Kjellvander that is not only poignant but profound. This record, like his others, is as moving and musically astute as anything put forth by his peers and is far better than most. ~ Thom Jurek