Lost at Sea Looks like Rain
(2011 Stone After Stone)
Here is one that almost got away, a solo recording from Erik Kjelland, leader of the Mascot Theory and former member of Crimson Vim and Fallen Roadies. This album marks a return to songwriting after a bit of a break for Kjelland. Over the course of ten years he released eleven recordings both solo and with his various bands. Kjelland is the principal songwriter on all those recordings so that is quite a lot of songwriting and quite a lot of perseverance. Kjelland has a wife, three children and a job on top of all of his musical endeavors so it’s easy to comprehend the strain.
Kjelland was approached to write some music for an independent film entitled Cloistered Honey which, at this writing, has not yet seen release. The project only ended up using a couple of these songs. Kjelland has said he felt that having to write a song around a story line instead of inventing one was a challenge. You can almost hear him re-engaging with his musical self on these songs.
The music here is as introspective as Kjelland has ever been and instrumentally it sometimes relies on keyboards to convey the bittersweet subject matter. The disc opens with such an example, an instrumental called “The Beginning of the Hive,” played by Kjelland on piano and keys. Its plaintive melody sets the mood for the recording. There are two more instrumentals in a similar vein giving the album a thematic feel.
The title track is a bit more familiar Kjelland territory, an alt-folk song highlighted by Kjelland’s Jeff-Tweedy-meets-Harry-Chapin vocals.
The album has that homemade feel about it too. “Our Abandoned Love” is a great ballad and would sit right at home in the midst of the current alt-folk trend currently raging. The reverbs are a little harsh and the harmonies sound a little squeezed. The luxurious layers he puts on this track don’t quite achieve enough separation.
Kjelland is joined by bassist Art Ranney and drummer/percussionist Brad Reuber throughout with Mascot Theory bassist Nick Fry appearing on two tracks. The vocal songs are driven by Kjelland’s acoustic guitar. “Long Dark Tunnel” labors a bit and it 6:28 it serves as the album’s centerpiece. But the best song is the album’s penultimate track, “At Least the Weekend,” something really different for Kjelland with a psychedelic vibe and saxophone locked into a strange modality.
Lost at Sea Looks Like Rain may not rank as Kjelland’s finest effort but it’s a relatively easy listen and displays a sensitive, introspective side that makes it singular within his body of work.