In many respects, Kaspar Baum would fail the test a being a prog band. There’s little that you would say had the traditional tenets of prog about it. Which would bring us to the still totally unanswered question of “just what is progressive rock?” If your answer is that prog bands should sound like Yes, Genesis or Pink Floyd, then your answer would be no. But if musical eclecticism, drawing inspiration and influences from a variety of sources is a key component of your definition, then Kaspar Baum does have some prog rock elements. Maybe not much of it, but there is an element.
The band is an alternative/post-punk band from Holland, formed around singer-songwriter Erny Green who is the vocalist, keyboardist and also plays guitar on the release. The group coalesced after Erny had a jamming session in his own Vuurland Studio with bass player Evert Smit and drummer Jelmer de Haas. These three started working on an album just as the Netherlands went into lockdown. Soon, guitarist Rempe Kooij joined and the quartet became Kaspar Baum.
The ten songs on the album essentially display influences from the 1980s. Joy Division, The Cure and The Smiths are the obvious starting points, but there are later acts evident too, such as Arcade Fire, Editors, and especially War On Drugs. Wilco and Radiohead also come to mind from time to time. The music is quite pop orientated being somewhat radio friendly and catchy. There are some nice keyboard sounds, and the band are all really decent musicians. They don’t stray very far from the needs of the songs though, so the sound is sometimes rather constrained to proggy ears. The track Green Fields is probably the most progressive, especially the mellotron sounding keyboard introduction. Don’t be fooled by the apparent lightness of the music though, there’s often considerable depth to the lyrics. The song Blindfolded is about how we seemingly live our lives blindfolded until we remove it only to apply another one. These are often abstract blindfolds of course, with our emotions being amongst them it would seem.
Overall then this is a pleasing album from Kaspar Baum. It is clean sounding, well played and there’s some really fine song-writing on display. The lyrics suggest that the band has something to say, and they are excellently skilled to achieve that. As Vuurland is the band’s debut album, although individual members have been around for a while in various guises so they cannot be considered novices, you would expect them to mature and develop a more unique style. Too often during listening it is like hearing The Cure being fronted by Morrisey, or a rockier Echo And The Bunnymen. But there’s obviously the writing talent and playing skills to achieve that shift without losing the freshness of their sound.
1. Ugly Black Monster
3. Licking My Wounds
4. Funky Coat
6. Green Fields
7. Who’s Gonna Fall
8. Kid On The Carpet 03:59
9. Forty One
Erny Green – Vocals, Guitar & Keys
Evert Smit – Bass & Synths
Jelmer de Haas – Drums & Percussion
Rempe Kooij – Guitar
Release date: 10th December, 2021