Both in art and in media there is a steady focus on social and cultural differences. It is for some reason more important to describe what makes us different from each other than what makes us similar. The album Kindred by Kevin Wood is a reaction to this. Wood’s message is that we all have a lot in common, regardless of race, ethnicity and religion. With this as inspiration, I guess Kevin Wood had to create something truly beautiful. And yes, he did!
Kindred is Kevin Wood’s third album, released in 2008 – and a remastered version was released in 2010. Fans of his previous albums, Scenic Listening (2002) and Sacred (2005) will feel at home. This time around there are less Gregorian chants, but a more ethnic approach. Wood has his very own style. He uses rich synth pads, a beat box like drum and additional layers of piano, strings and vocals. It is in my opinion exquisite sound design. It’s on the brink of perfection. Perhaps it is just me – but I think Wood’s synth and drum arrangement reminds of the intro to Bruce Springsteen’s classic Streets of Philadelphia. It is beautiful music with a hint of melancholy.
Strength in Numbers
The first five seconds of the album are very interesting. It is like the artistic technique “in medias res” in a novel; after reading two lines you are in a middle of the story. On Kindred the high-pitched female vocal and the deep synth pads on Adoration create a sudden and intense soundscape. After 10 seconds or so your ears will adjust to it. In a genre where most artists use three to five minutes to build up to a song’s theme, it is refreshing to find an artists who doesn’t waste time. It is a good effect. You only have to listen to it for a few seconds and you know what to expect. Other songs, like The Eternal Return, have a longer build up.
The next song, Strength in Numbers, starts with an ethnic male vocal, followed by an electronic cello solo – and then another male vocal is heard. The theme, played with piano, is very melodic. I enjoy the way the different voices “talk” together, almost creating a conversation in the song. This is especially notable on the third track, Mother’s Love. Here a child is saying something, half singing and half sobbing. Then a female vocal (presumably the “mother”) is answering in a calming way, perhaps saying that everything will be ok. It is not unlike a lullaby. The female vocal is also on the next track, The Eternal Return. I think that these ethnic voices illustrate that all humans share the same need for love and comfort. Music is the universal language, and you can understand it by just listening. It is hard to say if the people of the Amazon would enjoy Kindred – but one thing is sure; since it communicates feelings of love and comfort, it may have universal appeal (at least for everyone used to synth music).
With such a great inspiration, I guess Kevin Wood had to create something truly beautiful. And yes, he did!
The deep flute on the intro to the song Honoring Tradition, played by Virgie Ravenhawk, is simply fantastic. It is like music from a distant past. Again the use of samples and voices are first rate, and the mix of cello, piano, flute and a guitarlike instrument is as good as it gets.
The best song on the album is Many Voices One Spirit. The piano melody is so lush and beautiful – you”ll want to hit the repeat button after just one listen. The sampled choir sings “kyrie” (but without “eleison”), and then an ethnic vocal is heard. Later on the song there a few Gregorian chants as well. The combination of musical elements is like a melting pot of East and West, past and present; it is Wood”s way of saying that we are all kindred spirits. The meditation version of the song, track 10, is as expected a little longer and slower. And yet again the low-key rhythm fits in perfectly. The two last tracks, Atonement and Reunion, are two dreamy tracks – a nice way to end the album. There is also a bonus track, In Search of Kindred Spirits, from Sacred. And I guess that there is a reason for this; it has much of the same sound, or vibe if you will.
I must mention the phenomenal cover artwork by Claudia Wennberg / oledesign.com. It is the second best photo installment for a new age release I have ever seen (best being the Tubular Bells cover, no surprise there). The hands in the middle almost trying to catch the sun, with the world map and the meditating person at the lake – plus the mountains and the setting sun. It is such a powerful illustration of Wood”s music.
Kindred is simply put an album that all fans of new age music will enjoy. It is relaxing, uplifting and somewhat different. Wood”s uses drums and samples in an original way. And most importantly; it is heartfelt and real. The kinship of humankind is something we all must cherish.
Play the album on: