Goldmund GoldmundFamous Places
Goldmund has always been Keith Kenniff’s safety zone, comfort zone, the undeniable post-classic testing ground that has managed to stay clear of the author’s experimental concerns and interests, especially when he got the irresistible urge to sing and mess up the musical discourse of Helios, his mother project, to head into the territory of lazy, predictable neo-folk. And maybe this is why, in a general overall balance of the American composer’s career, the Goldmund line remains more solid, spotless, and compact than that of Helios. In the four releases put out so far, including the compilation of oddities “Two Point Discrimination”, his formula has barely changed or mutated, but it has always showed clear signals of solidity and consistency, with the triumphs of those four magnificent titles, with similar results and intensity, which already form an inexorable part of the most brilliant recounting of the neoclassical crop of the last decade.
So while with Helios there is always room for surprise and disconcert, and not always in positive terms, in Goldmund, reliability and the more or less known script predominate. Those who have already succumbed to the crepuscular spell of one of the albums of this lesser project will already know where they stand with “Famous Places”—there is barely anything new. The piano once again acts as the binder for the plot and the sound of all of the songs, marking the tone, the line, and the emotion of the trip. To this point of departure are added subtle, delicate arrangements of acoustic guitars, the occasional background synthesiser, and light electronic touches. These are brushstrokes added to complement the piano base, but once again they appear spontaneously and occasionally, when the body of the song requires them to grow and generate more emotion. It is true that this is the album where Kenniff has used the most resources besides the piano, and that is part of what makes the album’s sound more expressionistic and romantic, but there is never a supremacy or sublimation of the instrumental satellites that enrich the starting point.
So the structure of short songs, between two and three minutes on average per song, the circular construction around the piano, and the precise, very contained notion of melody as a catalyst for emotions are repeated. And this time, a concept is also added on that in a sense helps to give the whole more cinematographic impact, making it more evocative. The famous places that the title alludes to and that we find made explicit in the names of the songs refer to places that have been important for one reason or another to Kenniff’s personal and creative life, inspirations and evocation that our star takes advantage of in this journey through the memory and the experiences of his own life to do his best and offer his most accessible, epidermal songs since that powerful debut, “Corduroy Road”. The idea is old, and in a sense stereotypical, but it works really well in this context.
Does the Goldmund project appear trapped in its own formula? Yes. Does it suffer from a certain repetition of structures and patterns? Yes, it does. Can one easily detect the tics and see them coming? There is no doubt. But having said this, and having accepted the main problems of a discourse that doesn’t, however, aspire to great revolutions or creative pillage, and that easily survives its own limitations, we still have a clean, clear, exercise, with impeccable execution and approach, which adds a new notable episode to his career, without complaints of any kind. “Famous Places” confirms, finally, that the author needs this project to exist in order to remember who he is and where he comes from, while for his faithful followers it makes this project sure, if it weren’t already, as a life insurance policy to have him always on a short leash, keeping his wanderings and curiosities from carrying him away too long on the wrong path.