Homebound is the third solo album by Swedish/Dutch musician Kristoffer Gildenl÷w. After two highly regarded albums; Rust (2012, see review) and The Rain (2016, see review), it is time to find out how his third effort worked out. As on his previous releases, Kristoffer asked a number of his musical friends to perform on the album. So this time it's Dirk Bruinenberg, known from Elegy, 7 Miles To Pittsburg and Patrick Rondat, who handles the drums, alongside Jeroen Molenaar. Returning guitarist and right hand since the beginning is Valentine's Paul Coenradie, he shares the guitar duties with Kayak and Ayreon's Marcel Singor. Other long-time collaborator is former Pain Of Salvation colleague Fredrik Hermansson on piano. Kingfisher's Sky's Maaike Peterese retuned as cello player and noteworthy are both backing vocalists Jan Willem Ketelaers and Erna Auf Der Haar. Finally, the brass parts are courtesy of Ola Sj÷nnerby.
If you are familiar with Kris' previous solo albums, Homebound fits in perfectly. His compositions are smooth and melancholy, with a kind of intensity that is typical for Kristoffer Gildenl÷w. Take Holy Ground, an intense composition, were the vocals emerge from the atmospheric opener; Eternal. Here it sounds like Kris is having a musical conversation with himself, personalising the characters with a different timber in the vocals. I had to ask him if it really was him all along during this fantastic track. Another highlight is the following track; Like Father, Like Son. Nice guitar melodies are accompanied by doubled vocals into a song that is both melancholy as well as accessible. One of those songs that grows, every time you listen to it. The great guitar solo really tops off this track. Infected highlights a dark and desperate feeling, perfectly brought to life with smooth acoustic guitars, subtle percussive parts, and emotional vocals. The following Snow, is a keyboard /electric piano driven track, which has an atmospheric feeling to it. Nice and in a way pretty minimalistic. As a contrast to some of the previous songs, Our Home is a warm cosy composition, which takes you away from the desperation and keeps you safe in the comfort of your home. A wonderful congenial composition, with fine bass parts and dedicated background vocals. After this positive part, I Cried Today brings back the melancholia, but also summons you to deal with your demons and let it all out. As a fan of Leonard Cohen, Kristoffer chose to cover Chelsea Hotel #2. Although I heard this song covered before I have to credit Kris for this wonderful version. I know Cohen was unique, but Kris's version does add a special something, which almost makes this an improved version of the original. Homebound finishes with a powerful minimalistic ballad; You Need Not Stay (Away). Just a piano, a fine voice and a fretless bass in the end, wonderful!
With this third effort, Kristoffer Gildenl÷w continued to produce high quality melancholic compositions, larded with personal emotions. With his smooth vocals, he enters your head, without having to raise his voice, settles and remains there for a long time. Homebound is a magnificent experience.
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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