A Short Trip to Kashmir – Stephan Weber & Oliver Soerup ( reviewed by Dave Franklin)

There are many reasons to cover other peoples songs and in my opinion most of them are not really very honest. I know that you can make an argument for tradition and wanting to honour your favourite songs but for my money, unless you can bring something new to it then all you are doing is riding on someone else coat tails and basking in their reflected fame and glory. After all in which other creative field could you do something similar without it being regarded as at best plagiarism, at worst forgery? I couldn’t paint the Mona Lisa or write Pride and Prejudice without a few questions being asked.

Thankfully Weber and Soerup find new ways to approach this iconic song. The original is anthemic rock at its finest, sweeping, majestic, cinematic…in a word, big! Here though the song is treated to more folk textures, staccato acoustic riffs and some lovely cross cultural detail that takes in all manor of world music references from Celtic pipes to tabla beats. It’s a clever move, most people covering the song might opt to try and match the breadth and ferocity of the original, which is unlikely to be improved upon, instead the guys explore the space and subtitles that lay at the heart of the song.

And if the original evokes a magic carpet ride to the east, this Short Trip also encapsulates the same escapism, something wonderfully underlined by the video which sees our two protagonists wandering through ancient backdrops and imagined scenarios whilst being depicted as video game caricatures. 

It’s a deft and delicious take on the song, revealing the clever compositions that lie underneath the pomp and majesty of the original as they incorporate some wonderful guitar picking and subtle details alongside the more familiar riffs. And you could almost be forgiven for thinking that this is indeed a Led Zeppelin recording, a demo or work in progress that never saw the light of day The band loved to mix their bigger bluesy rock sound with more measured folk vibes and A Short Trip to Kashmir captures many of the same sonic textures and musical hues that often inhabited their albums.

As I said at the start, covering other people’s songs, especially song’s this famous, is a tricky business. You might even accuse people who do so as being arrogant in some respects, that to even take that route is to say that you know the mind of the author better than they themselves did or that you can somehow improve on their work. But what Stephan Weber & Oliver Soerup have done with their Short Trip to Kashmir is a tribute, a homage, a returned gesture of thanks. It’s a difficult line to walk, one that offers a new take on a song but still feels close enough to the original to feel like a long lost recording, but here the two do it perfectly.

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