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Kebnekajse - Kebnekaise II CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.96 | 87 ratings

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4 stars What an amazing transformation of a band in just two short years! The change in Kebnekajse from their first album to this one is unbelievable. While the band’s 1971 debut has all the feel of a good-ole’ boy Southern U.S. boogie band (but strangely not many authentic blues licks), this record is an unquestionable masterpiece of Swedish folk classics with imaginative and inspired modern interpretations.

The story goes that Kebnekajse guitarist Kenny Håkansson (who was in demand as an guest musician throughout Sweden at the time) had spent time following the release of the band’s debut touring in support of Dutch/Swedish folk legend the late Cornelis Vreeswijk. Håkansson is said to have developed an appreciation for the traditional violinists in Vreeswijk’s entourage, and more so for many of the folk standards he performed. Specifically, Håkansson took a liking to the sparse but seductive melodies around which many of these tunes were crafted. As a result Håkansson followed up the tour by teaching himself to pay violin, and by integrating the former Kebnekajse supporting act Homo Sapiens into the group for their second studio release.

This recording features Håkansson’s interpretations of four such Swedish folk traditions, as well as Kebnekajse guitarist Ingemar Böcker’s American Indian-inspired “Comanche Spring”, the longest and most elaborated composition on the album.

The opening “Rättvikarnas Gånglåt - med Turid” is a pleasant but surprising adjustment for anyone whose only exposure to the band is the aforementioned debut. The rhythm is an almost martial three-beat conga affair by transplanted Guinean Bah Hassan, and the wordless chanting of Turid Lundquist, who oddly appears only on this track. The basic arrangement is quite melodic, with Håkansson’s sparse guitar work complementing Böcker‘s more elaborated style. Homo Sapiens violinist Mats Glenngård sounds almost Celtic at times, and dominates for most of the piece. As a result this comes off as the most traditional-folk effort on the album.

“Horgalåten” on the other hand leans more heavily to the guitar, wandering and loose with a faint Arabic feel at times. Like the remainder of the album this is an instrumental, and while the percussion is more subdued here there is some rhythm on timbale by Hassan. This has more of the feel of a traditional dance arrangement, and again is highly melodic and for the most part a three- step tempo. There is also an extended live version of this track on the CD reissue, and while the recording quality is rather poor there are clearly two drummers and more animated guitar, and the comparison to the studio version is interesting at least.

The guitar work on “Skänklåt från Rättvik” has a more modern feel, with just a hint of psychedelia and some slow but intense picking dancing above the plodding bass line and an almost playful rhythm. This is a mesmerizing composition that I can just picture being played in an Asian opium den while the smoke drifts listlessly above the just as listless audience. Very beautiful.

Finally comes the Ingemar Böcker tune with an interesting Nordic twist on the American Indian – “Comanche Spring”. This sixteen minute piece with often torrid psychedelic rhythms, passionate conga and highly elaborated guitar work is supposed to pay homage to the plight of American Indians around the time of the settlement of the New World. Never mind that the Comanche Nation was almost entirely located in the American Southwest and almost definitely never battled Vikings (Mexicans or Spaniards perhaps); and forget that the sometimes improvisational jazzy bass and psych guitar does nothing to connect itself to that culture. The viewpoint is refreshingly novel, particularly to an American, and the latter half of the song does manage to evoke a bit of the mood of a summer Albuquerque sunset. So nods for managing to pull that one off.

In all this is so much more interesting, lively, and richer than the rather mundane debut album from the band that it has to be given its due. This is definitely a four star recording, and one that would easily be welcome in the collection of any prog-folk fan, and probably most other types of prog fans as well. Highly recommended.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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