Kaktus Einarsson - Kick The Ladder
‘Kick The Ladder’ the anticipated debut album from Icelandic composer and songwriter Kaktus Einarsson, frontman of post-punk outfit Fufanu. It was produced by Kaktus, alongside Swiss electronic composer Kurt Uenala, and finished in New York City. It draws heavily on the concept of how we as a society relate to our surroundings, whether it’s environmental or personal. For example, ‘Hypnotized’ is inspired largely by the recent deportation of immigrants and their children from Iceland, some of whom have lived there all their lives. He asks “Are the children scared? Do they belong with us here?” Angered, schools marched against the bill which in turn had Kaktus ruminate on the wondrous innocence of youth, and how older generations often find their ethics clouded, forgetting the simple difference between right and wrong. “They do not bow their heads to the plan, nor adjust to the broken scam”.
Having just become a parent for the first time himself, childhood and naivety is something at the forefront of Kaktus’s mind. On ‘Oceans Heart’ he sings about optimistic dreams and memories, how as we age we lose sight of what we want from life, all conveyed in the simple pleasure of flying a kite and watching it
dance amongst the clouds. Elsewhere on the record, ‘Story of Charms’ is about stopping to take in the little things, and appreciating the space around us, nature and trying not to get caught up in the distractions of adulthood. Solidifying the theme, ‘Daydream Echo’ builds on the words of an NYC street preacher. As he was finishing the album Kaktus had a moment of clarity and affirmation as he looked out the window of his studio, he tells us; “They were standing in the same place every day, shouting about how we’re all going to die, and how we’re going on a ride. A few weeks later, the world was in chaos. What if this New York outsider was just more advanced than us, and we’re the crazy ones?”
Einarsson has led a remarkable musical life. Born and raised in Reykjavík, he was playing as part of experimental electronic act Ghostigital at the tender age of ten. In Fufanu, he opened hometown shows for Radiohead and Red Hot Chilli Peppers. The band also supported Blur in Hyde Park, and stormed the festival circuit, appearing at the likes of Primavera Sound, Rock Werchter, Musilac and Down The Rabbit Hole.
Now aged 28, Kaktus is beginning a new chapter with ‘Kick The Ladder’. Having honed his understanding of songwriting, recording, and production, the LP is the culmination of his experience in contemporary classical and pop music, and bridges the two sides of his work.
+ LP is Mandarin Orange vinyl
Kaktus wrote the album in Iceland, then developed its sound in Copenhagen in collaboration with French prepared piano experimentalist Thibault Gomez. “I was using my knowledge of extended playing techniques and the contemporary repertoire, and getting them into my pop music,” he says. “We replaced synths with acoustic sounds that are familiar, but unfamiliar in many ways. It’s all organic, there are no artificial effects: we created all the effects with this one instrument, the grand piano. We tried it for every situation. To build up tension and suspension in songs and sounds we would scratch, e-bow and regular bowing the strings inside of the piano for example, and even play with brooms on the belly of the grand
piano. Used it even as a drum machine!”
The result is a profound, melodic record with an expansive and innovative sound. The album also sees Kaktus evolve as a vocalist and lyricist. “Every song on this album is a love letter to my environment, and my surroundings,” he says. “Some of the songs are a dialogue between two people, others might be written to nature, and what is happening to our planet.”
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