An introspective intro leaps into heartfelt exaltations from Aleena Gibson at the top of her range, echoing as if across a silent Scandinavian lake at dusk, and we’re off into a rampaging instrumental overture to open the seventh album from the rejuvenated Kaipa, a very different band from that of the ’70s but no lesser for that and always worthy of the attention. In fact the “new” band has now released more studio albums than the original and has developed a style of its own which takes elements of what had gone before and moulds it into something new that stands apart from other Scandinavian symphonic bands. The willingness to integrate traditional folk elements via the sparkling use of traditional instruments makes for a unique experience, a melodic approach at the heart with the key to it all being the dazzling musicianship.
The Swedish word ‘sattyg’ translates as ‘devilment’ and it is this mischievous sense of fun that is at the centre of all things Kaipa; the music follows its own path for the pleasure of those involved and they seem to be having a blast with it. Although crammed full of musicianly talents, all at the top of their game and capable of stunning the listener with their dexterity, Kaipa is not a studious muso outfit who take themselves too seriously and their music is a celebration of life, the natural world and the wonders we see every day in an uplifting message of good vibes and harmony.
The band itself is simply extraordinary. The fact that they have stayed together almost intact since the debut return album Notes From the Past in 2000 is testament to the enthusiasm the players have for this project led by original Kaipa keyboardist extraordinaire Hans Lundin. Morgan Ågren and The Flower Kings’ Jonas Reingold are a dream team rhythm section and although original guitarist Roine Stolt left in 2006 his place has been more than ably taken by Scar Symmetry man Per Nilsson who brings a stunning touch utilising elements from his more metallic day job. With the instrumental side taken care of the duo of vocalists add the finishing touch. Patrik Lundström (familiar to many as a member of Ritual) and Aleena Gibson have similar styles and attributes that complement each other beautifully, each with real depth and power to their voices and a delivery that exemplifies the wide-eyed wonder that is contained within the music.
Sattyg‘s opener, Key To Your Secret Heart is like an encapsulation of all that makes new Kaipa albums something to get excited about; 15-minutes of high energy and thrillingly individual symphonic music jam-packed with melody. There are a number of features that come together to make Kaipa’s music so special. This track starts small before being launched into the stratosphere on a dizzying instrumental passage. Things are brought back to Earth via the addition of folky sensibilities from Fredrik Lindqvist’s whistle as Lundström delivers the beautiful chorus, his voice blending into Aleena’s as she takes over, her emotional optimism dueting with Lundin’s keys over a tasteful backing. A folk melody returns punctuated by pyrotechnics from Nilsson; this is toe-tapping stuff that is sure to maintain its appeal over time due to the amount going on as the track ebbs and flows with themes revisited and reinterpreted. The ability to blend so many disparate elements into a cohesive whole is the real success story and over the run of albums in the new millenium Lundin and Kaipa have established a sound that is all their own with Sattyg probably the most satisfying album the band have yet produced. It’s a complete joy from start to finish and anyone who has been taken in by the spell cast by this band previously are sure to love it.
Histrionic and over the top the music of Kaipa certainly can be but this is prog after all and they have reined in some of their more extravagant affectations on this album, particularly in the vocal department, Lundström and Gibson putting in the performances of their lives. The acoustic opening of World of the Void is a fine example, Aleena starts gently but the power and passion she brings are palpable. She is just so emotive here and the blending of the voices as Patrik joins just gorgeous. Another example is Unique When We Fall, Patrik taking the high vocal lead which sounds like it should be sung by Aleena who soon joins in as the two trade lines and duet. Occasionally in the past it would be fair to say that the vocals could have put some listeners off, a little forthright and even shouty at times, but here they are perfectly pitched and hugely enjoyable and I urge anyone who has had a problem with this element of Kaipa previously to listen to the samples from Sattyg as they blend wonderfully to the benefit of the album as a whole. The band have matured and everyone knows and is comfortable with their role within it.
Kaipa hit their goal with aplomb here, Sattyg tweaks the emotions one minute, soars to the skies the next whilst still managing to capture more earthy qualities. The musicianship is stellar as usual whether the band are flying or pinning down a delicate section punctuated by whistle, harpsichord or Elin Rubinsztein’s violin, the dextrous instrumental outbursts exemplifying the work of latter day Kaipa whilst the themes are stately and organic. A key point is the ability to flip from acoustic instrumentation to full-blown electric at the drop of a hat whilst integrating all the elements together perfectly. There’s also plenty to enjoy going on in the background and the end result is supremely satisfying. The structures, such as in Without Time – Beyond Time are particularly keenly realised. Here, the piece builds slowly with real drive from Ågren, falling away to a lovely vocal with sparse backing before building up again with a new feel.
The landscape and traditions of Scandinavia are etched into the music of Kaipa and Sattyg has to be the most complete vision of this to date; a real fusion of styles put together with care and attention to detail, the requirements of the music being the focus of all involved. The title track, as with 2012’s Vittjar, is pure folk, instrumental this time with a lovely combination of whistle, harpsichord and violin, light as air and shot through with an uplifting vibe. Swedish to the core, it features jaunty melodies reminiscent of Steeleye Span but with far more dexterity.
Songs of nature and the human condition are clearly a huge inspiration to Hans Lundin who wrote all of the songs. Kaipa’s affinity with the natural world is compelling, evidenced by the huge influence from Swedish folk as well as traditional progressive rock and other forms. Lundin should be commended for his skill in putting all this together, the band negotiating his labyrinthine melody lines with ease whilst able to display their individual personalities through the beauty of Lundin’s mix and production. As cottage industries go, Lundin does a superb job and has picked the right people to join him for the ride.
Per Nilsson and Lundin trade superb leads through World of the Void, Reingold adding a lovely contribution during the breakdown. This song is focused on the vocals but it is the stunning instrumentation that makes it work. Nilsson has been a revelation since joining the band for 2007’s Angling Feelings, the fluidity and technicality he displays is jaw-dropping but Lundin’s skill is in integrating his playing within the whole so that the music doesn’t topple over into a tech-metal shred-fest. Nilsson’s choices are excellent and the exuberance of his playing is a real high point, his inch-perfect metal technique successfully deployed in a new environment through breathtaking soloing in almost every song.
Never shying away from bizarre titles, Lundin this time comes up with Screwed-Upness, Lundström taking the lead with an edgy vocal that casts images of a ship literally all at sea. Nilsson leads into a classic Kaipa instrumental that takes a typical left turn into folk with another fine contribution from Lindqvist that works superbly with Nilsson’s flying guitar, Lundin’s harpsichord and organ building the sound. Another switch and we’re into jazz fusion territory shot through with an imperious performance from Morgan Ågren and Lundin’s classic, almost guitar-like overdriven keys a unique part of the Kaipa sound. The mix of jazz and folk also comes through during A Sky Full of Painters, Lundström’s descriptive vocal setting the scene as the piece seems to evolve organically through some drastic changes of direction that always work beautifully.
Sattyg is simply wonderful throughout, a fascinating addition to the now extensive Kaipa catalogue. They really don’t put a foot wrong here in an exhilarating display of invention and musical celebration. If you’ve been previously smitten with the works of this brilliant band you know what to expect already. If you are not familiar then this would be a great place for you to start.
01. A Map of Your Secret World (15:02)
02. World of the Void (7:49)
03. Screwed-Upness (13:06)
04. Sattyg (3:13)
05. A Sky Full of Painters (14:42)
06. Unique When We Fall (5:17)
07. Without Time – Beyond Time (9:49)
Total Time – 68:58
Patrik Lundström – Vocals
Aleena Gibson – Vocals
Per Nilsson – Electric and acoustic guitars
Morgan Ågren – Drums
Hans Lundin – Keyboards and vocals
Jonas Reingold – Bass
~ with guests:
Fredrik Lindqvist – Recorders and whistles (tracks 1, 3, 4 & 6)
Elin Rubinsztein – Violin (tracks 3, 4 & 5)
Record Label: InsideOut Music
Year Of Release: 2014