Lifelines, the third album from Swedish multi-instrumentalist Elias Krantz, is an intriguing blend of minimalist music, ambient in places and more direct and groovy in others, which often feels like a continuous train journey. It moves through towns and cities to the countryside and back again, and one can imagine it being perfect travelling music, especially through Krantz's native Sweden.
Being just two tracks on each side, both of roughly 20 minutes, it goes from full-scale arrangements to minimal drones in seamless and pleasant transitions. One will be quick to be reminded of Godspeed You! Black Emperor in its feel, especially as a small-scale version of their oft-cited magnum opus Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven. In that regard, Lifelines is an impressive record for a single entity to arrange, as opposed to the nine, or so, piece ensemble of the previously mentioned Canadian auteurs.
Over the course of its 40 minutes, the album takes a fairly easy and familiar trajectory, starting off with a full band groove at the beginning of tracks, descending into minimal drone in the middle and then coming out the end with another jam. The playing and composition are highly impressive as instruments weave in and out of consciousness and focus but always collectively moving towards the next part. This especially comes to a head at the end of Side A 'Patchwork' - so roughly the very heart of the record - in which brass instruments and guitars come together to produce an almighty cherub's blast.
However, the Godspeed comparison, whether intentional or not, is also a bit of a hindrance to Krantz's record. For as luscious as Lifelines sounds, it only really has two modes – full band post-rock and ambient drone neither of which really hits the collective heights of, say, 'Storm' in the record's louder mode, nor the genuine intrigue of the quieter moments of 'Sleep'. To give another comparison, Nils Frahm's Nonkeen project, who also released a recent, Godspeed-aping record in Oddments of the Gamble last month, manage to remain refreshing, coincidental and original despite potentially showing some of their hand, where Krantz's record can't seem to escape the shadow of its predecessors.
While not every listener will necessarily make this connection, and it is arguably unfair to do so, this does highlight the record's shortcomings. Individually, without context, Lifelines is a gorgeous piece of ambience on the one hand and impressive musicianship on the other. However, it never really goes above and beyond impressiveness, never transcending its sound into something really special, despite occasionally threatening so. As a musician as apparently ambitious as Krantz appears to be, the record actually feels relatively light on its feet, being two similarly structured 20-minute tracks, leaving the listener to actually pine for more from this obviously gifted composer. As a result, Lifelines ends up being pleasant yet ultimately forgettable.
6Adam Turner-Heffer's Score