Kajsa Lindgren ~ Everyone is here

Where do our parents end, and where do we begin?  How old must one be to become one’s own person? Answers are elusive, but on Kajsa Lindgren‘s latest album the emphasis is more on connection than disassociation.  Three generations contribute music to Everyone is here, as does a childhood home, thanks to Lindgren’s discovery of old family tapes.  To a musician, these might be even more valuable than photo albums: aural snapshots with which one might duet, as Natalie Cole once did with her father.  While there’s no telling where the samples give way to live performance, the liner notes indicate that the further one travels into the album, the more of Lindgren is there, imitating the effects of adulthood.

Lindgren’s gratitude for the cassettes is apparent throughout the recording, perhaps most obvious in “Trio for cello, piano and violin,” featuring a 70s recording of her mother, uncle and grandfather, followed by applause.  Other songs and sounds she recreates, using field recordings to blur the lines between past and present: snippets of dialogue, opera, morning birds, the squeak of a train car.  At times the album is reminiscent of The Caretaker, although the tone is different: these are more memories than hauntings, producing more gratitude than melancholy.  Lindgren’s layers imitate Jörgen Lindgren’s artwork:  in some cases, these are what memories sound like, while in others, these are what memories sound like painted over.  Lindgren’s advantage is the existence of archival recordings, the reality check to misremembered events.

According to Lindgren, the sewing of this quilt was a comfort as she began to see herself in the squares.  The present tense of the title ~ Everyone is here ~ highlights the thought that our loved ones are always with us, even when they’re not.  We channel their influences; we tell their stories; we carry their genes.  We are the sum of what has preceded us, plus all-new material, nature and nurture combined.  Most obviously, Lindgren is a musician, as were her ancestors.  But few people of their age were making music like this: elegantly abraded, like unearthed artifacts restored to their original luster.

In “1991,” birds continue to sing, possibly the descendants of the earlier birds.  By “How it sounded in my mind,” the artist is revisiting memories and recreating sounds, extending chords earlier heard only in samples.  Longer tracks such as this offer the opportunity to tell stories rather than sentences.  She sings on “Anna” as a way of remembering singing, or at least the feeling of being so content she might have sung.  In contrast, the church bells of “Melodies” likely sound identical to the way they sounded once upon a time, providing an aural anchor.  The mid-piece cassette glitch is a reminder that the ear can be as tricky as the mind.

In the end, Everyone is here is a testament to the flow of time.  To nestle comfortably in the family tree is to feel as safe as a bird in a nest, warmed by the morning sun.  (Richard Allen)

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