Norwegian composer and multi instrumentalist John Erik Kaada (pronounced CODA) has spent the last decade or so releasing diverse works from soundtracks through to collaborations with Mike Patton (Ipecac Recordings, Mr Bungle, Fantômas, etc…) with his debut release on his own Mirakel Recordings, released on May 25, the Fifty Minute, eleven track album “Closing Statements”.
“There is a mysterious aim over the final words of the dying. What does these last words reveal about life, death and consciousness? These words give a glimpse into the individual’s overall feelings and experiences,” Kaada explains. “The underlying message of the album is that we have to listen to each other. In a modern world where people mostly don’t have the time or interests to get to know one another, we need to be reminded that we need to listen. At least… when somebody is about to say their last words.”
“The titles are quotes and fragments from different farewell utterances… things that people said when they were about to die.” – Kaada.
The last words or ‘Closing Statements’ as it were of people are largely driven by the lives of the people concerned. The last things they say can be from a lifetime of regret or from a place of contented reflection. Naturally the moods conjured by these words and in turn, the pieces on this album reflect the various feelings at the end of a person’s life.
“It Must Have Been The Coffee” with such a whimsical title, the music is an unexpected delightful pairing. To say that it is Orchestral, grand and beautiful somehow feels like selling it a bit short. Delightful melodic almost toy like piano is joined by fragments of stringed before a full-blown string section joins in giving a more moodier feel of the piano pieces. Choral pieces that are paired with violins give a feeling of a life being celebrated with a leveled of joy in their sounds. The returning to the piano (with some strings joining in) feels like it had come full circle from the passing of the person, to the joy of their life and then moving on with life without then present, but in memory.
“Farewell” some manipulated instruments giving an off kilter feeling before minimalist deep stabs of piano and a collection of electroacoustic improv elements flitter around. Warped melodies, strings, electronics steer the track towards a fusion of neo classical and electroacoustic improv before once more being taken away by an electronic section that has cascading synth works of a retro nature. Musically there are many twists and turns as you would expect from Kaada’s musical history, without a strong obvious narrative to tie the music to the theme of final words, but maybe this is due to the various emotions that surround the finality of ‘farewell’ that people go through with understanding death.
“Everything Is An Illusion” fast paced piano that has insistence, but fragility to it is joined with short snippets of clanging sounds that briefly enter the sound scape. The piano is become more and more frantic with a quality of sound that feels reflective. Snatches of a variety of electronics, strings, vocals and drones make their ways into the track, breaking up the listener’s attention from the piano. At the end of the track these seemingly disparate elements come together to give more of a presence with the vocals being particularly complimentary.
“Unknown Destination” snatches from the run out groove of a record are replaced by a fluid and melodic piano section with low-level chimes before moving into a section I can only describe as being experimental classical with an emphasis on joyful unconventional playing creating a certain mood that would be paired with cinematically with a slightly dark children’s fairy tale. The piano returns joined by strings like violin, rumblings of double bass and the chimes creating a piece of grandeur before returning to the woods of the fairy tale. This is where it starts to get dark. The tones vibrate, a metallic guitar or string instrument that sounds like it has been exposed to the elements, clangs away while an equally moody sound scapes of piano, drones and strings fills out the sound. The final section of the track varies wildly from orchestral drones and piano with haunting choral voices to electroacoustic electronics fast past paced piano and strings that draw on a history of suspense movies to draw every last ounce of inspiration from the theme of the track.
“Wonder Out Loud” the briefest piece of the album lasting a mere forty – two seconds doesn’t waste its time and is a beautiful vignette purely composed of layer of sound which you can detect toy piano alongside some sort of string instrument that seems plucked. The motif is played through eight times with subtle variations being detected with each passing section. A times both whimsical and wistful. It reminds of a musical cue for a character in a film.
“On The Contrary” opens with sparkling electronics and bassy drones that sweep across the music. The pace is slow like a funeral march. The music then changes to some form of affected piano that sounds distorted in its tones, alongside a humming choir, organ tones and the electronics from the beginning. There is a haunted quality to the music that has an inherent sadness, but not overly melancholic. Percussion leads into the second last section which expands on the sounds with more rhythmic elements and soaring strings that have a sense of finality to them as they splutter out. Drones, piano and ghostly voices gently bring the track to rest.
“Useless, Useless” vibrating spectral drones, gently padding piano, shimmering guitar and searching electronics form this gentle but folky sounding track. With a title such as “Useless, Useless” you would expect a certain amount of anger, resentment or frustration to come through in the music. However, this is not the case. The music has an innocent quality that is mixed in with pensiveness. The regular undulating vocals are paired with theremin like electronics alongside the flowing piano and the central focus and emphasize the mood of the piece.
“Clearing Out” sounding like a soundtrack piece to a sci-fi film with rippling tones and minimalist piano that drone out. Flute or another wind instrument compliment the piano before the music changes tack with handheld percussion, avant-garde string flourishes, rapid piano playing and granular electronics changing it into more of an experimental classical dance piece before reclaiming some of the tracks beginning and fusing the two styles together. Where the music fits in regards to theme will be dependent on the listeners interpretation, but I found the track to be quite suspenseful and cinematic.
“More Light” flickering sounds, a collection of sounds and textures entering and exiting the background over which a metronomic rhythm plays before rapid piano joins in. Possibly the most electronic in nature track on the album. There is a retro feel which is made apparent by the synths, before the track briefly goes 180° with droning elements, vocals and gentle piano. The synths bring back the futurist feel alongside the percussive like metronomic rhythm. Musically I could compare the sound to something similar to the ‘Stranger Things’ soundtrack.
“Hey Unfair, That Was My Exit” the light returns to this track with its fast paced melodic piano, flourishing strings and drones. Hand played percussion adds an organic element as the music gradually picks up in intensity. A choral section then takes over with wind like vocals over lush organ drones. The music returns to the original motif with the addition of more percussion elements. The break between the two sections feels in a way of moving onto the next plane with the return to the beginning being a full circle, like a rebirth.
“Home In The Dark” the most experimental of the tracks, you get the feeling of organic and electronic elements becoming blurred. The music has a rhythm but not by conventional standards. Sounds reverberate and cascade sharing melodic tonal qualities, orchestral sounds compliment synths, distorted bass guitar lines give a dirty edge to the music that utilises dub techniques in the way sounds bounce. There is a multitude of things going on and as you listen more deeply, more is revealed – small snatches of sound barely audible, different types of sounds and styles abounding.
Some people like magicians for the sleight of hand tricks and the illusions. The audience wants to know ‘how they did that’. I feel the same when it comes to music, especially when it comes to music like this. There is so much going on, such varied textures, tones, sound, styles and approaches. I wonder how people are able to come up with such things that reveal so much and seem so effortlessly beautiful. This wanting to know ‘how people did this’, is what I feel about when it comes to an album such as this. This is just jaw dropping and essential.