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Album Review: Vintergatan
Oskar Kappland
Cover image of the album Vintergatan by Oskar Kappland
Vintergatan
Oskar Kappland
2020 / Oskar Kappland Music
16 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Vintergatan is a wonderful solo piano EP by Swedish composer/pianist and world traveler Oskar Kappland. Still in his early 20’s, Oskar has released many singles and a handful of EPs, but this is the first time I’ve heard his music - a very happy discovery! Recorded on an older piano in his home studio, Kappland has the microphone(s) set up to capture the sounds of some of the inner workings of the piano as well as the notes from the keys. This can be very distracting, but in Kappland’s case, it doesn’t detract from the music at all. The piano was obviously freshly-tuned and has a sweet, slightly old-fashioned sound that perfectly suits the beautiful simplicity of Kappland’s music.

The album title translates to “Winter Street” in Swedish and is also the Swedish name for “our home galaxy, the Milky Way. Here, I also use it as a denomination for my cold home country, which I recently returned to after four years of full-time travel.” (quoted from an introductory email to me from the artist.) The album contains six original piano solos and a piano arrangement of a traditional Swedish folk song. Kappland keeps most of the pieces fairly short, giving the album a playing time of just under sixteen minutes.

The EP opens with “Interlude: Welcome to Vintergatan,” a slow, dreamy piece that suggests vast open space (the sky?) as well as the stillness of bitter cold. “Many Small Streams Make a River” has a bit more clicking from the piano action than the other tracks and it sounds like the strings are slightly muted or damped to give the piano sound a more atmospheric quality. It starts out with a gentle flow, builds a bit, and then slows back down to fade out. “Forgatmigej” (“Forget Me Not”) is a favorite. Heartfelt yet very spare, deep emotions are expressed without a lot of drama. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard another piece of music about “Frostbite,” but Kappland makes it sound far from unpleasant. Almost playful in spirit, the piano sound has a somewhat crisper, colder edge that fits the piece. In contrast, “The April Sun Hurts My Eyes” exudes warmth and a peaceful calm that makes me think of daydreaming in the warm spring sunshine. “Looking For Something I Won’t Find” has a strong melody that could support lyrics, but really doesn’t need to. The poignant melody suggests feelings of yearning while the steadier left hand seems to be more resolved. I really like this one, too, but my favorite is Kappland’s arrangement of the Swedish folk song, “Who Can Sail Without the Wind?” It begins with a series of broken chords as an introduction, and then the melancholy melody enters. I listened to this album several times yesterday and that sweet little piece grabbed me by the heart every time. So simple yet so emotionally powerful, I always hate to reach the end. Repeat button, where are you???

I’m very excited about Vintergatan and learning more about this up-and-coming artist, Oskar Kappland! The album is available on Amazon and iTunes as well as Spotify and other streaming sites. Both thumbs up!
May 4, 2020
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