Review Summary: Sounds like: A: Fate bringing me this album instead of Eyes Like Brontide. B: A cluster**** of emotion. C: A two-headed boy traveling through an acid laced forest, psychedelic rivers, Legolas playing the acoustic guitar, and obnoxious lady bugs.
First things first. I love surprises. They break me out of my daily routine and for a moment put me into a happy state of mind. For starters, did I know that the Carolina Panthers would go on and win twelve games with one of the leagues brightest young stars in DeAngelo Williams? Of course not. I expected Carolina to have a caliber season but I left my expectations at ten games with a shot at wild card and/or sole possession of the NFC South. Another surprise, hypothetically speaking of course, would be finding out that Ashley Green of Twilight fame is the niece of Richard Simmons. Who would have known that something good could come out of a Richard Simmons situation? I also love when something bad happens. I am an optimist and fully believe in that “when one door closes, another one opens” philosophy. So after three weeks of waiting and anticipation of receiving the new Lights Out Asia in the mail, I was quite disappointed to find the contents of my purchase to be wrong and not what I ordered. The record was Laulu Laakson Kukista from Paavoharju. My initial response was, what the fudge is this? I cant pronounce the name of the band, the band members or the song titles. The artwork was engaging enough to make me give this album a spin so after a few test drives I feel compelled to tell you all that this is something special.
The music of Pavvoharju is a bit difficult to write about as they shift between several different moods and emotions within their music. The structure of “Laulu Laakson Kukist” holds it’s roots deeply into the neo-folk genre, but the band offers so much more than what is expected of a typical neo-folk band that they are simply too good at what they do to be slapped with a tag. Imagine sparse acoustic guitars crashing head on with psychedelic Pink Floydian harmonies and ethereal male/female vocals. I mean the song “Kavatrumpu” in particular sounds like a Eurovision duet between Bjork and Britney Spears singing in Finnish. The song brings to mind a mystical walk through an acid laced forest complete with trippy melodies and shoegaze atmosphere. The thing I appreciate about this album is the multifaceted songwriting approach. Each song stands out on their own with special hooks and unique vocal patterns whether it’s the grand symphonic majesty shown in Kirjkonvaki, the industrial leanings of “Uskallan” or the 28 Days Later meets carnival music vibe shown on Italialaisella Laivalla. Two things are for certain, one, each track is extremely unpredictable and two, I don’t know what any of the lyrics or song titles mean.
Neo-folk meets ambient meets psychedelic rock. Sound good to you? Keep on reading stranger. Another prominent tool used by Paavoharju besides a bunch of hard to pronounce native instruments is the incorporation of sound samples. The baby cooing in Uskallan is one prime example. Nature sounds such as wolves and crows howling and cawing are balanced with more earthly sounds for a minimalist type setting. Piano and acoustic guitar meet heavily layered synthesizer effects and spoken vocals for a haunting road trip to hell. The chemical balance between each respective instrument melds extremely well together resulting in a perfectly strange yet cohesive manner. I commend the vocalists for their eerily yet emotive approach. Not so much direct singing as it is humming and operatic crooning from both male and female. The contrast between the two is perfect for the music as each chapter unfolds a new part of the story.
This is an album that sits best when listened to as a whole. There isn’t really one, two, or even three songs that need to be recommended so if you decide to give this a spin just get the album. As you can tell, this album won’t be accessible to everyone but in regards of the untraditional structure and musicianship of Pavvoharju’s music the music, I can only commend the band for trying something so bold and thought provoking. Artsy music fans need apply.