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Review: 'Kjellvander, Christian'
'Wild Hxmans'   

-  Label: 'Tapete Records'
-  Genre: 'Blues' -  Release Date: '26th October 2018'

Our Rating:
Christian Kjellvander’s biography describes him as ‘an empathetic vagabond, a daydreaming desperado’. His ninth album draws on a host of styles ranging from folk to free jazz, and while comparisons to Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and David Sylvian, but this is no studied exercise in emulation: Kjellvander leads the listener through a wide-ranging geography to pull heightened emotions from intense and challenging experiences, including his own.

‘Heartfelt’ is as chronically overused as ‘epic’ in the music journo lexicon of cliché, particularly where singer-songwriters are concerned, but when an artist addresses the death of their father and youngest brother in song, as Kjellvander does on ‘The Thing Is’, I’m reduced to cliché in the face of the emotional force. And it’s the human element of ‘Wild Hxmans’, an album littered with references and thoughtfulness, that renders the 8 songs on offer here so potent. Coupled with the sparse, intimate arrangements – the first two tracks, ‘Strangers in Northeim’ (which occupies similar territory to Mark Lanegan, but builds more layers of intensity in the shadows it casts) and ‘Curtain Maker’ stretch out ambient contrails and cloud-like layers of sound paired with chiming post-rock guitars spanning 8 and 9 minutes apiece, while Kjellvander croons introspectively – ‘Wild Hxmans’ is exploratory and predominantly downtempo, even lugubrious at points.

With his rumbling vocal chords, Kjellvander doesn’t so much lurk in the shadows, but casts them long and dark. Kjellvander is never less than imposing in his restrained intensity, and ‘Wild Hxmans’ is bleak yet redemptive, and an album that’s at once stifling and oppressive, and unexpectedly uplifting in its honesty of spirit.

  author: Christopher Nosnibor

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