ALBUM REVIEW: Kabaal Klankbaan – Baptism

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Pretoria-based solo musician, Floris Groenewald hails under the pseudonym of Kabaal Klankbaan: a versatile folk-rock act of which he asserts to be the only permanent member. The project’s second full-length album, Baptism, was released in early June this year. Self-produced and recorded in Groenewald’s bedroom studio, Baptism is an amalgamation of songs written over the course of the last four years which, while still holding true to the folk-rock sound he is known for, incorporates an array electronic elements this time around.

His sound overall is a bouncy blend of acoustic guitar, harmonica, and kick drums, often swerving his music in the direction of country music before meandering back into its roots. Wildly foot-tapping moments in ‘Phone Calls’ are almost reminiscent of the music in Footloose while the crooning ballad-like sound in ‘Not Tonight Josephine’ veers the album in an entirely different direction.

Floaty violin, tinkling guitar and heavy piano work compliment lighter tones employed in ‘A Change in the Weather’, while pizzicato violin occasionally patters like raindrops, overlain by poetic lyrics, (“Why is the darkness turning black?”). To diverge from the primarily acoustic sound, ‘Radio Silence’ is peppered with electronic guitar riffs and blaring, heavy synths. But while incorporating good percussive effects, the overall sound is displeasingly off-beat at times.

The melody is clear, clarified and very well produced. Expertly blended sonic layers merge to create an accumulation of varying aspects of folk-rock sound while an assortment of percussive effects adds depth to the music.

Lyrically however, this project is very lacking. While sonically the album is an excellently produced and orchestrated piece of work, the majority of the lyrics fall far short of the bar set by the symphonic elements. Most of the songs boast a haphazard collection of poorly constructed lines which are steeped in predictability. It is unfortunate that, for such an impressive array of sounds and vocal abilities, the lyrical content is so disappointing. ‘Sorry’ is a lilting, desperate apology track; and while it exhibits some gorgeous instrumental riffs which create a wonderfully moving atmosphere, the lyrics once again let the song down and leech it of emotion – something that is so imperative here.

There is an enormous amount of potential evident in this album, however. With the excellent production and the clear melodic scope it succeeds in encompassing, Baptism is simply a project brimming with prospective opportunities.

5/10

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