Some musicians have a discernible skill for balancing notes with the nuances and gaps between them to great effect, those who spring to mind readily, the eclectic talents of David Sylvian, Talk Talk and current exponents, the quite wonderful, iamthemorning. They also imbue a sense of melancholy but not misery, which I find are two quite independent entities, with a sweetness that lifts rather than lowers the mood. Though heart rending, at times it can make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck and a tear well in the corner of your eye. The delicate beauty of it, whilst fragile, has the power to swell your heart.
Whilst probably not well known to some, multi-instrumentalist Kristoffer Gildenlöw may be better recognised for being a member of Pain of Salvation, along with his brother Daniel, and a string of other projects. There are further similarities with the haunting qualities of the respective vocals of the above artists, and they also sail down a similar musical stream.
His previous solo album ‘Rust’ met with some acclaim and paved the way for his latest solo effort, the sublime ‘The Rain’ which is a concept album portraying the struggles and life of a man with dementia – Alzheimer’s disease. Each song deals with different memories, emotions and ideas and, though he thankfully has no personal first hand experience, Kristoffer says he was intrigued and these songs reflect how he thinks he would feel if he one day had to fight dementia himself.
He is backed, as he was on Rust, by a talented group of guest musicians adding everything from string arrangements to accordion in creating this latest offering.
The mood is set from the off, by the sounds of rain falling and thunder rolling in the distance. After The Rain pt2 creates an atmosphere with Kristoffer’s hypnotic vocals as our protagonist tries to grasp what is happening to him whilst on Holding On pt.1 he clutches at fading memories of a love, knowing fate will wrench this affection from him but, in the hope it will revisit him before the end comes.
Piano encourages him to reminisce over summer days on Seeking The Sun pt.1 as further memories are washed away with rain like choral backing and sombre tones, buffered gently by Seeking The Sun pt.2 (Petrichor) as it dances one last waltz before fading.
Again delicate keys carry Worthy in a lullaby to the visions of approaching final moments, reconciling with past demons, and a hope for a peaceful passing.
Strings stroked and plucked, evoking shimmering showers as vocals harmonise with a singular line repeated for Holding On pt.2 only to be washed away again by the downpour.
A quiet urgency is created in the vocals of See It All. A yearning to see as much as he can and to hold on to those memories for as long as possible as the time slips away.
The storm grumbles in the background over the piano, soothed away by weaving strings as acoustic guitar lifts the Peripheral Memory, with whirling sound effects and swaying accordion coming to the fore on this instrumental passage.
Kristoffer’s rhythmic vocals on Breathe In, Breathe Out attempt to ease the pain and control a gaining panic as voices float in and out of consciousness, in a struggle of acceptance.
With a brief respite of recognition for a loved one, perhaps for a final time, In The Evening, the overwhelming emotions are tainted with the knowledge, despite all good intentions and promises, that you will lose them and not see the journey through together. Guitar tugs and piano ripples attempting some understanding and explanation as angelic vocals drift toward It Was Me, a stand against what is happening, a refusal to give in and go quietly, hanging on and fighting for every precious moment as the drums march out the track; a cut connection on a phone line signalling the close.
The clank of metaphorical chains and dragging weary footsteps enslave with oppressive despondency as Kristoffer attempts to shake the dark stormy mood hanging over him, steel and electric guitar baring themselves to the wild torment of Rain, and no hope of respite.
Acoustic chords as She comforts him in the final minutes of existence. Caring, loving, a fleeting last recognition the mind offers as synth like passages lead the way to a destination heralded by the waiting angelic voices.
Electric piano and echoing vocal All For You in this brief farewell.
A moment we will all inevitably reach as the finality of life in The Funeral pt.1, a prayer before a fond instrumental goodbye in The Funeral pt.2 and the door closes with finality.
If none of the above musicians and sweet melancholy are to your taste this may not quench your musical thirst, but for those who relish this sort of music it will be nectar. For myself, I could drink it in all day, it’s a beautiful album which rewards further with repeat listening.
Released 7th April 2016.