Closing Statements – Stationary Travels (review)

Norwegian multi-instrumentalist, composer, & producer John Erik Kaada knows a thing or two about making sounds that people want to hear. Over the course of his musical career he’s made quiet a lot of them across a diverse spectrum of genres and formats – solo albums, collaborations, soundtracks, and live shows. He has just released another album and while he no doubt wants people to hear to it, what he really hopes is that it will drive home the message of how important it is for people to listen, really listen, to one another. The title of each song onClosing Statements is either a quote or fragment from things that people, both famous and infamous, uttered when they were about to die. A somber theme to be sure, but Kaada gives it a life-affirming twist. While so much music about death look inwards towards feelings of grief, loss, or nostalgia, he discards such well-worn tropes to reveal a surprisingly poignant lesson for the living.

Kaada brings a wealth of compositional chops and studio wizardry to bear on this passion project. Musically and thematically speaking, Closing Statements is kaleidoscopic in nature as he skillfully maneuvers piano, keyboards, guitars, strings & electronics in a constant shift & rotation of lenses which reflect so many aspects of the human condition in the face of mortality. His treatment of the subject is respectful and sympathetic, even haunting at times, but rather than wallow in pathos, his organic arrangements unfold and rotate origami-like to reveal angst, irony, and even humor in the face of life’s absurdities. Given the subject matter, it is a delicate balance to maintain, but Kaada walks the tightrope with aplomb. The tone for this is exquisitely set on the opening track, “It Must Have Been the Coffee” (said by comic actor Jack Soo known for his role on “Barney Miller”) followed by the tender and playful “Farewell” and carries wonderfully all the way through the album.

Indeed, death is a tragic and painful loss that can be hard to bear both for the ones facing it and the ones left behind and our helplessness in the face of it just makes it all the harder. But the vibrant sounds and sagacious wisdom of Closing Statements serve as a persuasive reminder that rather than dwell on the outcomes we cannot control, we would be better served to spend our energies on the avoidable losses, especially the ones that only require a little compassion and a listening ear.