Posted on Feb 27th 2012 08:03 pm
09 Tracks. 45mins40secs
The first time Finnish producer and musician Olli Aarni appeared on Australian imprint Preservation, in 2010, he did so under the name Ous Mal, with his debut album, Nuojuva Halava. Two years on, it is with a different project that Aarni returns. While undeniably carved from a very similar bloc, Valot Kaukaa (Lights From Far Away in English), focuses much more on the atmospheric nature of Aarni’s work and on developing a tight relationship between acoustic instruments, electronics and vocal textures. Indeed, while none of the tracks featured here can pretend to qualify as songs in the traditional meaning of the word, they are infused with vocal fragments which radiate through the whole record as they float amongst other components. These ghost-like layers are, for the most part, distorted and processed to the point of losing even their gender aspect, and incorporated as part of Aarni’s dense sonic constructions.
Existing somewhere between the dreamy effusions of fellow Fins Paavoharju or Icelandic collective Múm and the kitsch ambient electronica of The Gentle People, Nuojuva weaves a complex and quixotic web as Aarni slowly works up his layers into consistent ethereal pieces. Fragments of melody or instrumentation appear out of nowhere, without warning, and vanish as quickly, swallowed by swelling waves of decaying sounds and textures or fade away into thick hazy clouds. The basis for Aarni’s sound world is filled with acoustic instruments (cello, piano, flute, violin), but it is how he arranges them, and the heavy processing he submits them to, which gives this album its definite dreamy aura. Valot Kaukaa often feels warm and orchestral, but it equally appears like a vast sprawling psychedelic landscape with its shimmering melodic swirls and lush hazy arrangements.
The majority of the pieces presented here are free-flowing ethereal compositions, but on Huominen, Aarni ventures much closer to traditional song forms by placing a beautiful vocal melody within a wonderfully contrasted piece, but here again, the voice is drenched in effects, distorted, and buried so deep into the sonic backdrop that it is at times barely noticeable, and even when it becomes more prominent, in what vaguely resembles a chorus, the voice is surrounded by a shadowy choir, and words are still totally beyond comprehensible. Earlier, Kuu Piirtää Sillan is a much more fluid piece, but here again, there are faint suggestions of more concrete song structures, even if they have almost entirely dissipated by the time the piece disintegrates upon itself.
All throughout Valot Kaukaa, Olli Aarni plays with hints of ideas, scrapes of melodies and textures in various stages of decay to create a very effective fantasy world in which he then wanders aimlessly, leaving his pieces to seemingly develop almost by themselves. The strong musical identity of this record, not unlike those found on Fonal, is in part defined by its mysterious aspect; while it is virtually impossible to tell for definite exactly what these compositions are made off, they undoubtedly cast a wonderful spell on listeners, leaving them filled with impressions.