Multi-instrumentalist Trent Prall blends Hawaiian music, funk, and suave production.
Kainalu's Bloom Lagoon EP, released last month, certainly takes advantage of the summer moment—it's airy, atmospheric, and bright, occasionally enhanced with the sounds of surf and twittering birds. For multi-instrumentalist Trent Prall, the solo project is definitely about summer, but with a personal and cultural significance. His mother's side of the family is Hawaiian, and as a child he spent most of his summers with relatives in Honolulu. The songs on Bloom Lagoon combine the Hawaiian music he absorbed growing up (his favorites include the Ka'au Crater Boys and The Mana'o Company) with easygoing funk, a sleek electronic production touch, and high, trailing-in-the-mix vocals.
"I have a lot of nostalgia about certain places," Prall says of the time he's spent in Hawaii. "I wanted to use music as a way of transporting me and the listener to a tropical environment when listening to the record."
Prall, a classically trained pianist who studied at UW-Madison and previously played in local band Trap Saturn, played all the instruments on Bloom Lagoon, with just a couple of exceptions. (Connor Todd played saxophone on "Older Than I Am," and Jacob Bicknase of Madison's Left Field Quartet played drums on that song and "Wasting Away.") At their best, Kainalu's arrangements and production are richly detailed. The bass guitar on "Love Nebula" sounds as if it's trying to hybridize slap-pop funk bass with the pick-driven crunch of Carol Kaye on Pet Sounds. Prall got the sound by recording two bass tracks, one more conventional and the other through a "busted guitar amp."
While the whole EP luxuriates in atmosphere, it also has its sad moments. "Older Than I Am" is a wistful pop song that contemplates the transition into adulthood and the feeling that something precious is slipping away. "It's about feeling trapped in a 9-to-5 while your brain is telling you that your time to explore and be creative is closing in," he says. "Wasting Away" closes the album on its most subdued note, as Prall sings over gentle Rhodes-like keyboard chords.
Prall is putting together a live-band version of the project, which will play September 9 at The Frequency as part of WSUM's annual Snake On The Lake fest. In the meantime, he plans to continue working on Kainalu as a solo project in his west side home studio. Bloom Lagoon is available digitally and on cassette.