Recording information: Hyltinge Kyrka Sparreholm; Meistersaal, Berlin; Park Studio, Stockholm; Psykbunkern; The Bowery Hotel, New York.
R”d, the follow-up album to Kent's seventh full-length effort, Tillbaka Till Samtiden (2007), is in several ways a continuation of its predecessor. Tillbaka Till Samtiden had been a commercial as well as critical success for Kent, topping the Swedish albums chart for a month's time, spawning a few Top Ten hit singles, and winning the band not one but two Swedish Grammy Awards, for both Group of the Year and Album of the Year. The success of Tillbaka Till Samtiden was in part due to the band's embrace of synthesizers and electronic programming. For instance, the smash hit lead single, "Ingenting," was bolstered by a buzzing synthesizer riff and electronic beats, and another song from the album, "Berlin," is a nod toward the epicenter of the world-renowned German electronic music scene. The success of Tillbaka Till Samtiden was also in part due to award-winning Danish producer Joshua (born Jon Schumann), known for his impressive work on Mew's And the Glass Handed Kites (2005), among other celebrated Scandinavian rock albums. R”d once again finds Kent embracing electronics in collaboration with Joshua, yet rather than remake Tillbaka Till Samtiden, they've gone further in the direction of that album, pushing themselves into new stylistic territory. They chose to record much of the album in Berlin at Hansa Tonstudio, a storied recording studio on K”thener Strasse adjacent to where the Berlin Wall once stood. It's where David Bowie and Brian Eno recorded the classic albums Low (1977) and Heroes (1977), and it's also where Depeche Mode recorded some of their classic material in the mid-'80s. Kent no doubt found inspiration in the walls of this old studio, for mid-'80s Depeche Mode is indeed a point of comparison for R”d, an album where guitars and drums often are secondary to synthesizers and programmed beats. R”d's chart-topping lead single, "T”ntarna," is sequenced second to last on the album, a wondrous electro-rock climax that's far more electronic than it is rock, with vocalist Joakim Berg even sounding a bit robotic amid densely layered synthesizer riffs and beats. The album's second single, "Hj„rta," is less abrasive, graced with soaring vocals by Berg, a lush orchestral arrangement, acoustic guitar, and a bit of electronics that creep into the second half of the song. Another highlight is "Taxmannen," which kicks the album into high gear after the ambient opener, "18:29-4," sets the stage with a couple minutes of choir and organ, suggesting a religious conceptual frame to R”d, a motif further suggested on the mid-album epic "Vals f”r Satan (Din v„n Pessimisten)." Like their British counterparts Radiohead, Kent have evolved over the years without losing any of their fan base or any of their critical acclaim, as they started out in the mid-'90s as a fairly straightforward alternative rock band and later began experimenting with electronic music, never more so than on R”d. ~ Jason Birchmeier
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