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4 stars The fest continues. The genuine dawn of Kaipa, a veteran Swedish prog band, occurred in 2002, twenty years after the band went to history. What was before that? Their sickly-sweet debut in 1975, their creative peak in 1978 with Solo, their shameful decline in 1982 with Nattdjurstid - and finally, their glorious return with Notes From The Past, an album that brought notes from the future in fact. Old Kaipa was mostly Roine Stolt and Hans Lundin (as usual I speak only of those who wrote the music, not about 'guitar riffs', 'driving rhythms', 'keyboard layers' and other things of low importance). And it was musically rather pan-European than Swedish. New Kaipa is almost exclusively Hans Lundin. And musically it's completely Swedish. (I'm especially happy to underline this moment because Russian and Scandinavian traditional music exerted massive mutual influence throughout centuries.) Apart from that, as the band leader grows older, his music becomes younger. Today it's heavier, more complex, inventive and fresh than forty years ago.

Since 2002, one album followed another, all brilliant, all somewhat uniform but refined and sophisticated, all full of magnificent musical ideas. Perhaps the peak was reached with In The Wake Of Evolution and Vittjar. Sattyg was sustained overall at the same level as Vittjar, with no progress and no decline. And now, the new Kaipa album seems to show some relaxation from really dramatic tension of the previous releases. Yes it's still Kaipa at their best, yes the music is still sunny and shiny, very romantic and very progressive (sic!), but... The opening self-titled track is rather imitating complexity than really complex. As for On The Edge Of New Horizons, Like A Serpentine and What's Behind The Fields, their complexity and sophistication are not of the same nature as before.

More precisely, it's typical not for Kaipa only. The prog music of 2000s-2010s in its entirety moved in the same direction since the very beginning. I think the foundation was laid by Spock's Beard and Dream Theater in mid and late 1990s. The complexity and virtuosity of 1970s prog had a 'visceral', natural, spontaneous origin. The complexity and virtuosity of modern prog often takes its root in the musicians' craft and skill. Nowadays, prog music is ceasing to be a living being, a sort of a tree that grows by itself, and preparing to become an 'academic' (if not 'museum') area, just like so-called classical music. Soon we'll see portraits of Tony Banks, Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Ian Anderson, Jon Anderson etc in conservatories and music colleges, alternately with portraits of Bach, Mozart, Mussorgsky etc, and theory of 20th-21st century progressive rock will be taught at Royal Academy of Music and Moscow Conservatory on par with harmony and counterpoint.

On the one hand, this is fine. This means that prog music is ready to take the place in hierarchy of human culture it really deserves. On the other hand, this may also mean that progressive music is becoming senile and slowly moving from 'actual' to 'archived' status. So, the academic perfection of Kaipa's Children Of The Sounds, as well as some other new releases, especially from young prog bands, has a dark side. In The Court Of The Crimson King and Trespass were new springs - if not geysers - in music. Now, in late 2010s, we see widened streams but no new geyser. A crowd of honours pupils playing musical instruments better than their teachers, but no pioneer. Hailstorms of idioadaptations but no aromorphosis. And the progsters of old generation only aggravate the tendency. We've got used to bronze Beethoven - is the time really right for getting used to bronze Lundin?

Report this review (#1785669)
Posted Friday, September 22, 2017 | Review Permalink
3 stars Children of the Sounds is the brand new album of the Swedish band Kaipa, which was released a few weeks ago. It is their 13th studio album, and the 8th since the band was re-formed in 2000. It comes 3 years after the release of ? the very good ? Sattyg, but I'm afraid that is a weaker album. I have the band's latest four releases in my collection, and I believe that "Children" is the weakest album of all four. The style of the album is the usual style of Kaipa, with the familiar Folk Rock influences, the beautiful guitar passages, the nice female vocals on most occasions, and the long complicated compositions. But there is something missing, and I can't realize what. Maybe the fact that many songs remind me of other songs from the band's previous albums, but this time they are not so inspired. The album includes five songs, and has a total running time of almost an hour. There are three songs more than ten minutes in length, and the remaining two songs are seven and nine minutes long. I must also mention the wonderful cover, that continues the line of the beautiful album covers of Kaipa. Speaking for myself, I listened to the album 4-5 times so far, but almost every time I stop and turn back to their previous works. That surely means something, don't you think? Favourite songs: Like a Serpentine and What's Behind the Fields. Children of the Sounds is a decent album, but I wouldn't recommend it easily to people who are not fond of the music of Kaipa. I'm afraid I cannot give more than 3.0 (out of 5.0) stars.
Report this review (#1790982)
Posted Friday, October 6, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars Modern Kaipa don't discover Americas or invent the wheel, but they deliver what you expect from them. I'm not a "big fan" or long term follower, but I like them. In fact I "discovered" them last year and liked their album. This year, they delivered another stellar record. Their secret weapons are guitarist Per Nilsson and violinist Elin Rubinsztein. Their solos are beautiful and really enhance the band's musical palette. They are always played in the right place, in the right time and last exactly as long as necessary! I'm not a big fan of their vocals, though. Aleena's vocal is ok, but often lacks warm and deep, in my opinion. But male vocal is even worse and often doesn't fit music. This is especially evident on the last song that is almost ruined with shrill, harsh male vocal that sound like cat's song in March. Thankfully, that doesn't last long, and then violin and guitar turn this song that started so miserable into another nice musical journey. Just like with The Tangent, these guys would rather shut up and play, really! :)
Report this review (#1823599)
Posted Wednesday, November 15, 2017 | Review Permalink
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Legendary Seventies Swedish proggers Kaipa reformed back in the early years of the new millennium around two of the original members, founding keyboardist Hans Lundin and future Flower Kings guitarist Roine Stolt, with the duo delivering `Notes from the Past' in 2002. Since that time, Stolt has departed once again after 2005's `Mindrevolutions', even going on to form a related splinter group Kaipa Da Capo in the last couple of years, but Lundin has carried on forging a whole new unique sound for this modern Kaipa. This distinctive fresh identity is especially aided by Ritual's vocalist Patrik Lundström, Flower Kings/Karmakanic/The Tangent bass player extraordinaire Jonas Reingold and spirited female singer Aleena Gibson, and it is mostly this line-up that has remained in place for several years now, delivering another fine symphonic folk work here, `Children of the Sounds', in 2017.

Both opener `Children Of The Sounds' and the seventeen minute `On the Edge of New Horizons' instantly call to mind plenty of modern Kaipa songs of the last decade, as well as setting the template for much of the disc, with luxurious acoustic guitars and grandiose synth passages weaving bombastic folk-flecked prog-rock symphonies. The prettiness is ingrained to propulsive electric guitar soloing (sometimes briefly drifting into jazz-fusion territory), Jonas' fluid and thick bass backing and Morgan Ĺgren's busy complex drumming, and Patrik's Freddie Mercury-esque tone remains commanding with conviction while Aleena retains her boisterous hippie-chick colour and spunk! Stolt's replacement for several albums now, talented guitarist Per Nilsson, brings a heavier attack than his predecessor of many albums back, perhaps unsurprisingly due to his heavy metal background with Scar Symmetry and more recently Meshuggah, but he offers a very unique, curiously weighty backing to the fanciful acoustic folk passages here. Lyrically, there's a welcome positivity to the words that constantly focus on nature, nostalgia and spirit, with examples like `We are descendants of the sound cloud', `We are universal soldiers of art, the guardians of light' giving a good idea to the mindset the modern version of Kaipa operates from.

But the album really climbs to a higher level once guest Elin Rubinsztein's violin is introduced for all the remaining pieces. The near-thirteen minute lyrically reflective `Like A Serpentine' is an overall highlight of the disc, where carefully executed heavier rushes blend with a sweeping prettier whimsy of orchestral-like instrumentation, and it reminds how frequently lovely it is when Patrick and Aleena sing sweetly in unison or offer softly sighing harmonies. The shortest piece `The Shadowy Sunlight' fuses prancing violin and romantic moods with some heavier guitar bite, giving its bookended folk whimsy (the best parts of the piece) a touch of weight, conviction and light gothic flavours. Closer `What's Behind The Fields' is pounded with blustery symphonic Hammond/Mellotron blasts, with plenty of drawn out breathy vocals in between the twirling violin, jangling acoustic guitars and rambunctious drumming infiltrating the harder edged bursts, and a suitably grand extended guitar solo from Per perfectly farewells the album.

What we have with `Children of the Sounds' is another reliable and impeccably performed modern Kaipa album, however it does admittedly sound exactly like...pretty much the last six Kaipa albums in a row. The biggest diehard fans of the band likely won't mind, and newcomers discovering the group with this album will greatly enjoy it, but for others, it kind of renders the LP as `just another Kaipa album', which lets down the always superb efforts of the various performers here, and it runs the risk of some listeners becoming more disinterested in the group in the future. A definite rethink is in order here, where Lundin and his Kaipa friends need to shake up their sound and take a few more chances - perhaps they could deliver a purely acoustic work, or maybe a concept album with branching lyrical themes? Still, taken on its own merits, `Children of the Sound' remains a fine folk-flavoured symphonic work, and there's endless things to enjoy about it.

Four stars...and bonus points for Thomas Ewerhard's luscious pastoral cover art that looks especially lovely on the LP edition.

Report this review (#1826879)
Posted Sunday, November 26, 2017 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars With an excellent lineup of experienced, confident, virtuosic instrumentalists it'd be hard to create "bad" music. My usual problem with KAIPA, the vocals, seems a non-issue here as I like this music. Yes, the vocals are often a bit over-the-top classic rock like STYX or 707, but the instrumental work by these amazing veterans can even make these slights pale. Keys, guitars, bass, and drums are wonderful throughout! plus, excellent sound production. If it weren't for the fact that this is Neo Prog, this might be a contender for Album of the Year. (Neo Prog, unfortunately, implies an innate use and supposed exploration of older styles and sounds.) Still, this is, in my humble opinion, far better than IQ or recent MAGENTA efforts.

1. "Children Of The Sounds" (11:31) excellent lead guitar work soloing over and between some very standard, unexceptional Neo Prog sound. I'm reminded of 1980s hairband LOVERBOY on more than one occasion as well as Roine Stolt's THE FLOWER KINGS (the early years). The serious commitment to good sound and solid, tight performances on this one outweigh the weakness of lack of originality. (8.5/10)

2. "On The Edge Of New Horizons" (17:10) Something more interesting about this beginning--slightly angular arpeggi and chord progressions? Jonas being let out of his cage? Drums feeling a part of the mix instead of separate from? The scaled down vocal section after the more dynamic instrumental introduction section also sounds cool. The vocal has the tendency to go over the top but the unusual melody lines keep me interested. In the fifth minute an electric piano-based section takes over and builds, leading to some nice electric guitar and gtr/kbd tandem soloing. Another cool melodic choice in the vocals at the end of the sixth minute--kind of GINO VANELLI-like. The next odd tempo-ed, jazzed up section has some nice band interplay beneath a soloing guitar. The vocal that eventually joins in during this section kind of loses me, but the bass, organ, and acoustic guitars keep me engaged. MOTH VELLUM comes to mind during this section--before the instrumental section at the end of the ninth minute. Organ and mandolin-sounding acoustic guitar make for a nice folk melody section (though the background power chords from the guitar are a distraction). Nice guitar solo in section that follows (eleventh minute) (drums, too). Break in action for syncopated hits from various instruments leads back into a YES-like section of constantly dancing chords all synchronized among keys and background guitars, multi-voiced vocals and electric guitar taking turns in the lead. Nice section. I'm glad they chose to draw this one out. And I must point out the chance that the drums have to shine throughout. With about two and a half minutes left, things quiet down while Jonas moves into the higher octaves of his bass and the multi-voiced singing continues making it's STYX-like contributions. The best song on the album. (9.25/10)

3. "Like A Serpentine" (12:52) a slow, simple opening three minutes plods and disappoints in a kind of MOTH VELLUM way as it never seems to go anywhere. Until the fifth minute when the wonderful lead guitar brings us into a new place. Despite this performance, the song wants to drag on and drag out its opening pace and structure. Not even the folk-pop violin-led section or the participation of Aleena Gibson in the lead vocal seat can save it. (7.5/10)

4. "The Shadowy Sunlight" (6:57) opening like a 18th century masqued ball song intrigues and interests this music lover. But then things go folk rock with violin and drums entering and bringing us into the 21st Century. It sounds a lot like IONA here! The music then falls away leaving us with pulsing bass and bass drum and synth washes setting an ominous scene. Aleena's whispered voice sounds just as unsettling. But then she starts to sing as the music beneath her becomes more insistent and emergent. Electric guitar tries to steal the show again but Aleena and the rest of the band remain steadfast, slowly building momentum. (8/10)

5. "What's Behind The Fields" (9:31) organ dominated full-band chord sequence opening this song sounds a lot like old URIAH HEEP. Electric guitar lead enters to inform the song with some melodic noodles to cover the chords. Then things fall away and become very familiar. It's MOON SAFARI! Blomljud! With these odd instruments it makes me realize for the first time how have refrained from letting/making Jonas Reingold's fretless bass play dominate the music mix. I actually have to search to pick out his work. I find myself disappointed that the original chord sequence and vocal melody built over the top of it have been chosen to dominate this song. The vocal here is almost grating in the same way that MIKE RUTHERFORD's friend NOEL MCCALLA could do on Smallcreep's Day. A fair song but not great--despite the excellent guitar shredding over the top in those final minutes. (7.5/10)

3.5 stars; a nice contribution to prog world--especially to the Neo Prog lexicon.

Report this review (#1848469)
Posted Saturday, December 30, 2017 | Review Permalink

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