Published on 31st January 2015
Kalle Vilpuu – Silver Lining
A previously unfamiliar name to me, guitarist Kalle Vilpuu has been working the Estonian music scene since the early ’80s in bands such as Seitsmes Meel, House of Games and Ultima Thule. Silver Lining is Kalle’s first solo album and he has succeeded in producing a very melodic and listenable piece of work that manages to tread some new ground – a guitar album for people who don’t like guitar albums perhaps? With the core trio of guitar, bass and drums (the latter provided by Henno Kelpnailing and Andrus Lillepea respectively) nailing things down enthusiastically, Vilpuu successfully augments the sound with keys, strings and effects whilst keeping an eye firmly on the melodies. A key point is the relative brevity of the tracks, most of which fit into the 3 to 5-minute category, which keeps things fresh and allows the music to easily move in different directions.
Silver Lining has been permeating through my conciousness for a long time now and having immediately pricked my interest it has grown in stature, a thoroughly enjoyable listen time and again.
But what is to be expected from a collection of instrumental pieces by a man with such a lengthy pedigree? Vilpuu’s experience comes through to give a lovely variety, songs turning on a sixpence to emerge as something new. The spacey vibe of dense and dark opener Anomalies comes fully to fruition later with The Aliens (Have Landed) where siren-like synths burst into heaviness before launching skyward with a full-on Hawkwind groove. Intense melodies with catchy hooks lure you in on Unforgiven and it’s counterpart Forgiven with a restrained approach paying dividends as flamenco guitar adds a new texture amid the electronics that mix well with the heavier elements.
The central section of the album injects a heavy groove through Industrial No.4 and In the Back of My Head, crystal clear synth lines up front. Shredding is virtually absent and the guitar doesn’t hog the limelight for long making this a great ensemble recording where the young rhythm section also get the chance to shine. Vilpuu is certainly a talented guitarist but he is also a canny writer and arranger with the nous to know that less is often more when it comes to instrumental albums and the world doesn’t really need another collection of guitar pyrotechnics from players with unfeasibly dextrous fingers. I’ve grown bored with ‘look at me!’ showboating and the simplicity of much of what Vilpuu does here is a breath of fresh air; a well chosen hook, a push of power, top it off with some intriguing trips along less well trodden paths.
There really isn’t a duff track here and that’s down to the skilled writing and convincing performances being put together with care and attention to detail. If you have a liking for hard edged melodies with plenty of interesting side roads then this is an album that you should enjoy from start to finish with no skippers.
There’s room to chill out too, laid-back rhythms and a relaxed vibe being highlighted by the beautiful textured vocals of Mari Pokinen on two tracks. A real groove appears through Interno as the pace increases with bass and keys up front while unusual rhythms and an unorthodox melody gives The Touch of Angel a trance-like quality. In fact “expect the unexpected” is the watch-word for the second half of Silver Lining, a different feel emerging with Trappings featuring synths and a driving beat, a subtle shift and the guitar soars majestically over skittering, funky rhythms. Rosie is an intimate and personal ballad built on harmonics and guitar effects augmented by keys and finally the title track takes a rhythmic soundscape of electronica – again not what you would expect – and allows Vilpuu to masterfully control proceedings with understated guitar.
There is a freshness here and Vilpuu is to be congratulated for taking his album away from the expected and into uncharted waters by successfully integrating electronica into what could have been just another heavy trio album. Quite beautiful at time, Silver Linings is an exhilarating experience packed with unexpected twists and turns. Drums and bass are equal to the leader and add a funky groove where necessary while Vilpuu’s soloing is very convincing, serving the songs and adding to the music around them. By keeping them short and to the point they do not become overpowering. An album that isn’t as heavy as it at first appears, the subtleties emerge over time with an exciting edge and they aren’t afraid to pull things back to provide a laid-back interlude.
Kalle Vilpuu is comfortable enough in his skin to do his own thing and defy preconceptions or expectations. Energy and vitality pervades all of the pieces on Silver Lining and I really can’t recommend it enough, an album at times beautiful and fragile, at others hard and edgy but always interesting and entertaining. Well worth your time.
01. Anomalies (6:27)
02. Unforgiven (3:47)
03. Interno (3:43)
04. Industrial No.4 (4:17)
05. In the Back of my Head (5:23)
06. The Aliens (Have Landed) (3:34)
07. Trappings (5:44)
08. The Touch of Angel (4:41)
09. Rosie (2:34)
10. Forgiven (3:06)
11. Silver Lining (4:12)
Total Time – 47:28
Kalle Vilpuu – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Andrus Lillepea – Drums
Henno Kelp – Bass
Mari Pokinen – Vocal
Tarvi Jaago – Flute
Tiit Kikas – Violin
Martti Mägi – Violin
Imre Eenma – Bass, Viola da Gamba
Eduard Akulin – Trombone
Indrek Kruusimaa – Flamenco Guitar
Country of Origin: Estonia
Record Label: Guitar Lab
Catalogue Number: n/a
Year Of Release: 2013