Whisperinandhollerinhttp://www.whisperinandhollerin.com/rev ... sp?id=7318
Our Rating: **********
In the early 1970s I remember loving a BBC sci-fi drama called Doomwatch about a team of agents investigating strange ecological and technological happenings; a kind of X-Files without the aliens.
This may be an imperfect memory, but I remember a scene in which a man has fallen into a mysterious coma .One of the investigators says to his colleague 'I wonder what he is thinking". We are then shown a mass of abstract colour, strobe lighting effects and blurred imagery which ,we are given to understand, is what is actually going on inside his mind.
If you could enter the mind of Jan Anderzen, the Finnish folk visionary behind Kemialliset Ystavat, I imagine it would look similar to this. He is not comotose but conventional thinking is definitely not on the agenda.
At first listening of his latest album (in which he is assisted by fellow sonic travellers) nothing makes much sense. Repeated hearings serve to untangle the twisted collage of sound a little but for the most part it is stubbornly resistant to deconstruction.
Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that identifying what manner of instrumentation or digital trickery is used to create the finished article is next to impossible. Heaven only knows what the outtakes sound like.
A good strategy is to forget about trying to make out melodies or structures. Instead, I would suggest selecting a track at random and writing down a story outline of the first images that come to mind.
Here are two I prepared earlier:
Track 6 - Maksarouhoja - A boat is lost at sea and a crew of drunken men are rowing frantically to reach land while one sits apart playing a pinball machine.
Track 11 - Muutujat / saatajat - A steam train is struggling to reach the top of a steep incline and is attacked by a group of painted pygmies firing rubber arrows dipped in strawberry jam.
One thing I noticed by doing this exercise is that I didn't think of anything dark or morbid. The images reflected more a looking glass world of the familiar mixed with the strange such as might be viewed from the perspective of a bright child or optimistic adult. More than once I was reminded of the tempest of competing sounds that hit you when entering a seaside amusement arcade.
To get more clues about what Anderzen himself intended, I used Google's free (though imperfect) online service to translate titles. From this I discovered that the album title means 'attic fire' while if you type in other track names you get titles like Friendly swords (Ystavalliset miekat) and Do Not Touch The Birds (Ala koske linuja)
Other names are less than illuminating e.g. A Pile Of Stone In Peace for Kivikasan rauhassa or Tail Hit Reliance for Lyon hantani vetoa.
This question of words or phrases being lost in translation may also be an issue when we gentle listeners are informed that the album was recorded 'where the horsefly slumbers' .
Sometimes it's best just to let the mystery be!
The beautifully presented CD digipak comes with an elegant booklet that looks good but only adds to the confusions. This includes brief paragraphs written in Finnish and English. Here we learn about personalities like Emperor Asoka of India and a market timing analyst William Erman of Nashville and encounter bizarre news items like that of an old man who mistook his 89 year old roommate for a "fuming horse" .
The album cover itself is a montage of coloured objects and images, most of which are impossible to identify clearly. Anderzen's speciality would appear to be that of creating a largely impenetrable world within a world.
It's a puzzle, and if all I've said so far comes across as negative, I don't mean it to. It's hard to explain exactly why but I find Anderzen's music inspiring and endlessly fascinating. I think it's probably because it sounds so free-spirited and individualistic.
This is not music aimed at a mainstream audience but it would be wrong to dismiss it as elitist or wilfully obscure . After all, Beatles fans were more than willing to accept John Lennon's LSD influenced lyrics about "a bridge by a fountain where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies". On the evidence of the music and sleeve notes, I imagine some hallucinogenic substances are also at work here.
Tunes are in short supply but it is not really abstract enough to be called noise or detached enough to pass for ambient. In its ritualised aspects it can be more usefully compared to primitive folk music.
Many will just dismiss this album as the electronic ravings of a madman but, believe me, if you are prepared to let it weave its magic , there are rewards aplenty.
p.s. Apologies to Finnish readers if my translations are wildly inaccurate. I did my best. Also, I know that the original titles and, indeed, the artist name itself should have accents (two dots) over some of the letters A and O. Unfortunately, if I try to add these they are rendered as gibberish in this English orientated website.
- Martin Raybould