Pilgrims to the Kingdom of Heaven is an album about war and peace, past and present, fear and trust.  It is an album about faith, but it is also an act of faith.  The invasion of Ukraine has reopened young wounds and revived old anxieties in the Czech Republic, itself no stranger to russian aggression.  War and the specter of war loom large in Ká’s soundscape, primarily a set of field recordings, occasionally bordering on radio-play.  Harry Truman announces the surrender of Japan; the thread extends to today’s headlines.

Where might one find peace in such a climate?  The Bohemian forest continues to be the answer for Ká, although the struggle for peace is itself a battle.  The dawn chorus, the flowing streams, the night roosters and the daytime clouds all offer solace, singing of a different world.  While death arrives in nature as well, it is never as arbitrary, or wide-spread, or personal as it is in the human realm.  Each recording not taken from nature is a memory or an intrusion, depending on the tone; one imagines these as Ká’s thoughts while walking.  A passing train in a rainstorm provides a moment of blended peace, the organic and non-organic joining hands in a segment of serendipity.  What then is the drone?  Surfacing time and again, this may represent the fog of uncertainty, the looming threat of annihilation, the mirror dimly, even the background thrum of technology.

As the sound artist writes, “Pilgrims to the Kingdom of Heaven seek peace … they long for it.”  In the forest, Ká finds echoes of creation and a multitude of metaphors: the harmonies and soaring nature of the avian world reflecting the yearning spirit.  Everything is ephemeral, which adds luster to its beauty, if only one has the eyes ~ and in this case, the ears ~ to recognize it.

“August Echo in January” samples the words of Cardinal Josef Beran in 1968, as russia began two decades of occupation.  Rain falls; a dog barks.  For a moment all appears normal, peaceful, stable, although the undercurrent is one of unease.  Does inner peace have a place under such conditions?  Is the search for inner peace inherently selfish in a time of war?  Ká implies that it is not, as long as it is also a search for God.  As the prophecy states, “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.  But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”  The real battle is not for land or power but the for preservation of ljubov.  

Planes pass over a murder of crows.  Sirens sound amid the midday bells.  The juxtapositions are unsettling.  And yet the album as a whole reverses the mind’s typical script.  Instead of dwelling in anxiety with brief appearances of peace, the album dwells in peace with brief appearances of anxiety, demonstrating that despite all doubts, this is an achievable goal.  (Richard Allen)