The new record from the Norwegian composer Kaada is a beautiful thing, immense in scope yet startlingly intimate. But, while it plays on a theme – Death; the record, after all, is called Closing Statements – its songs, taken as a cycle, sometimes feel too content to color within the lines.
The LP, out today via Mirakel, offers more than its fair share of supple moments. Songs like “Farewell,” whose gauzy piano borders on faux-Romanticism, occasionally blur the lines between stringed instruments and electronic samples – to great effect. On a song like “Useless, Useless,” it’s even unclear if you’re listening to an acoustic guitar or a sample. The bed for this one is lustrous. “Hey, Unfair, That Was My Exit,” taking cues, perhaps, from its wistful title, is a juicy piece for piano, offering staccato rhythms over more even-keeled Satie-an refrains. “Home In The Dark,” the closer, is eerily epic.
When listened to straight through, though, as a statement of sorts, it blends together far more than when you cherry-pick its excellent, yet individual offerings. Maybe this was Kaada’s intention, to create a kind of Part-like flow between like-minded material as a sort of commentary on how death binds us. (Even its cover implies its cyclical nature.) I admit, I’ll bite. But, while the LP is pretty good when ingested in one sitting, it’s, frankly, pretty incredible when you skim and scan the surface of it. There you have it, kids.
Now, no review of Kaada these days would be complete without the requisite Mike Patton reference. The duo have collaborated on two different recordings, the first – again, keeping in mind songs like “Useless, Useless” – doing an amazing job of blurring the line between organic instrumentation and electronic-generated sound. And there are elements of Romances, the pair’s debut, on display here, for sure. But, while an assist from Patton could have lent more abstraction to the palette, I like what Kaada produced with methods solo. I just don’t know if the tender, almost music-box-like piano a minute into “On The Contrary” would have survived the Patton editing machine unscathed. And the record has lots of beautiful moments like that.
All in all, it’s a fitting rumination on death, a gentle kind of brushing over of the subject that doesn’t get bogged down with minutiae but still manages to get the little details right.