There are certain musicians out there that make music for multiple bands or projects, and it always just feels right for me. You know what I mean: those musicians who can do no wrong because your ears are simply attuned to their style of composition. Mariusz Duda is one example for me, as are other musicians, like Fabio Zuffanti or Marek Arnold. No matter where they are, their music speaks to me. Carl Westholm is another musician like this for me, and his two primary projects are both amazing. His involvement with Jupiter Society has long been my favorite of his, but this new Carptree album features music that literally shakes my soul, and I can’t get enough. The album is called “Emerger”, even though that font makes it impossible to read.
Carptree mainly consists of Carl Westholm on keys and his longtime friend Nicklas Flinck on vocals. Additional musicians on this particular album are: Ulf Edelönn on guitars; Stefan Fandén on bass, bouzouki, and e-bow; Jesper Skarin on drums; and Cia Backman and Öivin Tronstad on backing vocals. The band plays what I would call neo-prog, but there is so much more going on that.
Carptree is an extremely cinematic prog project. Their music features huge waves of melody, emotional climaxes and solos, and loads of monolithic heft; all combined into a prog rock package. There is actually this dichotomy between heaviness and gentleness in all of Carl’s compositions. “Between Extremes” is an excellent example of this, with towering guitar riffs being played up against delicate vocals. So, while this is prog rock, there is something far more glorious and mysterious in the compositions.
This band has an uncanny knack for crafting massive movements of melody and groove that just blow your mind, and on this album they do this several times per song; transitioning between wildly successful melodies or grooves without any strain at all. Carl also has this tendency in all of his albums and projects to include a tone that is hauntingly ethereal, almost like a dark rebirth of the universe or a subliminal river of mood. It’s almost like this combination of grander spacey themes with dark inner musings. It is one part of his compositions that I recognize immediately. Much of this comes from the eerie and harmonic backing vocals that set the dreamy mood.
The album opens in a huge way with the “The Fleeting Deep”, a massive song with huge grooves and glorious transitions. Right off the bat, you know that the keys are going to be wild and immense. Carl’s keys are nigh unto perfect, with synth runs and solos, plus an enormous atmosphere so thick it will infect your soul. Stefan’s bass is a huge factor on this album, as the colossal movements rely on his precision and ear. The contrast in this album between heft and fragility appears mainly between the keys and bass, but thrilling guitars from Ulf fill the gap and Jesper’s drums are appropriate technical at all the right moments.
Nicklas’ vocals are another foundation for this album. He has this Phil Collins thing going on, only with this eerie quality to it. He’s all over the place in range, with shadowy lows and piercing highs. Cia and Öivin really make waves on this album, though, with rich and creepy backing vocals that perfect the whole tone of the album.
Every song has this elegant, gushing quality to it as the melodies build and flow to greater heights and deeper depths. “The River” is a perfect example of this, as the song slowly but surely builds itself to a grand finale that truly feels like a winding, rushing river of sound. It feels so alive and green and gushing. Another favorite song is “Porous”, a fantastically immense song with huge melodies and a sweet synth solo (I’m such a sucker for sweet synth solos). I also love “Immersive Attention” for its great and haunting vocals.
“Emerger” is not just a solid release from Carptree, but a massive success. Its melodies are inspired, its grooves are just right, and the tone of the album is unique. The band has really outdone themselves here, from start to finish. If you want your prog to be cinematic and haunting, look no further. Hell, if you love amazing music, you need to hear this.