Dutch-American singer-songwriter Kramies has created an exceptional debut album of lavish dreamy folk.
Ohio-raised musician and songwriter Kramies Windt grew up in the Cleveland suburb of Fairview Park and began his career in the ’80s and ’90s playing in local bands (Summer and Channel are two he started) before venturing out as a solo artist. He relocated to Colorado in the early ’00s around the time he also made the significant decision to embrace sobriety.
Windt has released several well-received EP’s of his signature intimate indie folk (bordering on psychedelic folk) by way of dreampop. Unsurprisingly his 2018 EP ‘Of All The Places Been And Everything The End’ was written in an 18th century Irish castle, a foretaste of the magical realism on his extraordinary self-titled album.
Magical realism as a literary genre genuinely applies to Kramies’ music, with authors like Los Angeles’ Francesca Lia Block writing about the same dark undercurrent of the city as his quickly composed song ‘Hotel in LA’: “The day we hang up / All your photos / In that shitty hotel in LA / California where you grew tired / Probably from the pills you use to take / A little every day.” The drums sound like ocean waves crashing on the shore.
If the album cover looks like a Waldorf children’s book of northern European folktales, then these songs are modern fairytales in the vein of the original Grimm/Andersen ones, not the sanitized Disney versions. Putting aside the topics of addiction, breakups, abandonment, and loss of identity, all formed like the shadowy scenes of an Ingmar Bergman film, the songs themselves sound oddly light and whimsical.
‘Horses to Maine‘ is tastefully maximalist, with flourishes like brass building on each other into a lush sound. The Robyn Hitchcock-like ‘4:44‘ does the same, until its floating, transcendent ending that would have fit in with the first flush of English ’60s psych folk. On the ’70s-inspired ‘Ohio I’ll Be Fine,’ which Rufus Wainwright should cover someday, Kramies adopts a hurting yet defiantly dismissive attitude.
Kramies describes ‘Owl and the Crow’ as one of the album’s most meaningful songs:
“For one of the first times in my life I recognize instantly where the story and emotion from this song comes from. I rarely remember anything that isn’t emotionally heightened; if something doesn’t carry bits of historic emotional imagery then I don’t really care about it or remember it. This song has stayed with me.”
The unnamed town Kramies “stumbled around,” where ‘It’s hard to stick around’ possibly refers to Cleveland. It could also be Denver, L.A., Paris, or any other city about which he has mixed feelings. But his hometown has a long-standing, intimidating musical heritage: Bobby Womack, Tracy Chapman, Pere Ubu, Trent Reznor, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins for a start. This album goes far to argue that Kramies may well be included among the Rust Belt city’s great songwriters.