Hedgehogs & Elephants is not the first Fred Kinbom‘s record, and as a matter of fact he seemed to have left th catchy and ambient pop music he used to play as Frock. But I would say that this is for the best as he now produces a very intimist and unique music. An evolution? No… Rather a metamorphosis that lead him to explore his own pathway as a free and independent musician. Since he discovered the lap slide guitar, Fred Kinbom left his regular guitars and became almost exclusively a lap slide player. Thanks to this move, his creative chakras are wide open, and he just switched from the talented musician he was to the unique musician he is now. I do mean it! Fred Kinbom walks his crystal bar on the hollowneck of his guitar to get sounds and textures far from the Country or Blues lap slide clichés. In that way, he is totally in the tradition of musicians such as Bob Brozman or Ry Cooder… Ain’t that a nice pedigree? So, come with me and read these few lines dedicated to this talented and unique musician.
Hedgehogs & Elephants contains 12 versatile songs opened to many influences from all around the world that Fred Kinbom blended to cook his own and personal musical recipe. The mid-tempo focus gives an intimist, introspective and melancholic feel to this album, but it avoids the trap of a dark atmosphere… And this may be the main force of this album that combines two rather incompatible elements: introspection and opening-up to the world… A perfect match to this endless summer we have here.
Ambient and textural.
The most exquisite tunes of this album are just like a hedgehog: fragile and introverted. But if you get close, you will taste their spiky feeling. A major focus of Fred’s lap slide work is to draw aerial and ambient textures with his tone bar. The instrument itself is perfect to do so, and Fred takes a full advantage of these possibilities on the instrumental tunes New Yorker Impro and Tier recorded by himself with just his guitars. Isolation Song and Nattlunk are charged with a lot of feeling and a subtle atmosphere. These two gems benefit from Marjolaine Karlin‘s graceful presence. Her accordion helps the lap steel in settling the ambiance of both songs, but also moves further to provide some Arabic inspired and inspirational melodies (Nattlunk). Her voice reminds me of some famous trip-hop female singers, and it is a perfect match with the deep and soulful voice of Fred who doesn’t hesitate to go on some meandering melodic pathways
Finely crafted melodies.
Indeed, Fred’s musical approach is not limited to minimalistic ambiances, and his sense of melody brings the listener on the most sinuous and unpredictable roads. The Jolly Baker of Aachen and Igelkott (the hedgehog, in Swedish) sensibly flirt with bluesy guitar licks, but a personal bluesy feeling, and persistent melodies that resonate long after you’ve shut down the stereo. Dusk Dawn combines both the talent for drawing ambiances and the melodic feel in one piece mastered by Fred alone with his lap steels.
The elephants walk.
The vocals are nicely mixed with a very natural dynamic range. All the voices match well as on the duet with Sam Walker on I Love Biology (the unique song not based on lap slide) or the songs performed with Marjolaine Karlin. The songs recorded with side musicians always have subtle, light and original arrangements. The steel drum on Just a Crystal Bar transforms the country-like rhythm into something that I’ve never heard before. The violin and the eight chorists on Hollowneck Hangover, a klezmer inspired song, are inviting us to travel across Eastern Europe. Then, the album ends on Elephant Pace which has nothing to do with the heaviness of the pachyderm, except reminding us of the wisdom and the slow walk of the old elephant leading his group toward a new horizon… Toward a new album? Will he take us in Africa? In India? Fred only knows which direction he will choose…
The only thing I know is that I sure would like to take another musical train with Fred Kinbom for a new destination… And who knows, maybe he will record another train song (Sat on a Train)?
A making-of video with bits of the album:
To know more about Fred Kinbom and maybe buy his album:
- Fred Kinbom website: http://www.fredkinbom.com/
- Hedgehogs & Elephants on iTunes and on CD Baby
- I suggest you to check on Frozen Jungle Entertainment by Frock (the previous band of Fred Kinbom) that you will find on CD Baby, and which is a very good album too though rather different kind of music.
- On Slide Planet you can still download the compilation Slide Planet Volume I et Crystal Bar EP to discover Fred Kinbom and some other very talented sliders (Jim Petit, Paolo Conti, Mike Neer,…)
The most aware of you would have noticed that Fred is also sharing demos of his musical instruments with muzicosphere readers: Demo of the Lap King Rodeo and more to come.