Review Summary: Finland’s dark folk shamans re-imagine their tonal palette with spellbinding results.
Re-released around the time of Tenhi’s seminal 2006 record Maaäet
, Airut: Aamujen
marks a substantial departure from the Finnish trio’s typical, folk-influenced progressive music template. Whereas previous outings centered on plucked acoustic guitars and employed an exotic array of techniques and instruments, including flute, cello, jaw harp and didgeridoo, the band chose to alter their foundation with Airut: Aamujen
and winnow the instrumentation in favor of a stripped down sound. The result is a staggeringly successful 9-song set powered almost solely by drums, bass, piano, and Tyko Saarikko’s signature croon.
Despite the many changes, Tenhi’s familiar low-key approach is ever present. Moods shift fluidly from somber and pensive to bright and invigorating, staying beautiful all the while. Folk influences still appear, but instead of exuding darkness, they contribute to an overall sound that is more rich and abstract in focus than the band’s past works. The piano is the primary melody maker and it creates a pleasantly warm, yet shrouded atmosphere. Melodies are refreshingly simple, recalling Maaäet
’s more piano-driven moments, and often display a surprising pop sensibility. The accompanying drums blend brilliantly into the mix with soft, jazzy touches whilst producing a much-needed pulse for the keys’ languid procession. The full-sounding bass further rounds out the music’s depth.
Highlights are numerous as the album touches on several styles. "Seitsensarvi", “Luopumisen laulu” and the gorgeous “Oikea sointi” embody the record’s more accessible side, while the tricky rhythms of the instrumental "Kuvajainen" and plunking tri-tones of the dissonant "Hiensynty" delve deeper into experimentation. Tenhi have always possessed the ability to conjure imagery in the mind and that remains true on Airut: Aamujen
. The low talk-sing vocals may be an adjustment for some, although they do suit the album’s ambience.
was originally conceived as a musical sequel to Tenhi’sAirut: Ciwi
EP and released in 2004 under the side project Harmaa. The two albums do feel tethered in spirit and the band fortunately saw it fit to re-issue Airut: Aamujen
under the Tenhi moniker. The move seems wise, since it is bound to draw more attention to this exquisite record. This is recommended listening for lovers of innovative acoustic music.