Plain Ride- Skeleton Kites

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Sunday, June 1, 2014

My experience with Finnish band Plain Ride is fairly limited, despite the fact that they now have five full lengths under their belt. They are fronted by Janne Westerlund who is also a part of the prolific and ever-changing Circle. Plain Ride’s fifth full length album is entitled Skeleton Kites and finds them exploring elements of blues, folk, and even sprawling psychedelic rock that has a distinctive American influence without sounding like a mere copy. It’s the type of record that will likely take a few spins to fully sink in, but give it some time and I suspect you’ll find that the hazier melodies and old-school flair leaves an impression.

Part of the reason it takes time to fully appreciate Skeleton Kites is because Plain Ride goes in so many different directions throughout the course of the album. Although the core of their music recalls a good deal of American folk/blues rock circa the 60s and 70s, some Scandinavian and additional influences seep into each of the tracks and helps to keep them from sounding like another retro retread. This is unpredictable album, as the instrumental work will sometimes focus on sprawling psychedelic focused melodies that expand outwards in a hazier fashion and then will transition over into guitar freak-outs that have a more traditional rock feel. Because of this Plain Ride has been able to create material that will have you in an introspective somber mood and then have you up and ready to move about only moments later. It doesn’t have the immediate hooks that some of the other material of this type sometimes does, but I found that with the level of depth the songs offered on Skeleton Kites each time through revealed something new and kept me wanting to return.

Janne Westerlund spends the majority of the album singing in English, but he does occasionally dip back into his native Finnish which gives the material a different character. I actually wish a little more of the album was in Finnish, as Westerlund’s gravelly voice sounds a bit more natural. That’s not to say the songs in English don’t work as I still like his pitch overall and it adds some grittiness to the material, but there were a few sections where the use of English sounded just a bit awkward to me. What I like about Westerlund is that he doesn’t go full throttle through each of the songs, as he drops back slightly and delivers a softer and somewhat somber performance when the instrumentals are exploring mellower territory. It makes the release feel a bit more dynamic, and I’d be interested to see if the vocal work has gone for a similar approach on Plain Ride’s previous albums.

Skeleton Kites has some moments where it unleashes a wall of sound and recalls the free spirit of American psychedelic rock, but the majority of the release seems to be focused on softer, sprawling numbers that take a more introspective direction and channel the more somber nature of folk and blues. It’s likely to take a couple times through to fully appreciate, and some of the songs hit more depth than others, but as a whole I really like what Plain Ride has been able to accomplish. This band’s latest release has made a strong first impression on me, and I’m definitely interested in diving into their back catalog to see just how they’ve developed to reach this point.

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