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Es - Kaikkeuden kauneus ja käsittämättömyys

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Artist: Es

Album: Kaikkeuden kauneus ja käsittämättömyys

Label: Fonal

Review date: Jul. 12, 2004

Marshall McLuhan was right: the nervous system of our world has expanded exponentially. All of us are connected in a chain of thought and emotion, whether we want to be or not. Es’s third album manifests this global nervous system with a bright palette of subtle aural detail, haunting melodies and tangible texture. Hailing from Ulvila, Finland, Es is Sami Sänpäkkilä, a sound engineer, member of the experimental folk ensemble Kiila, day-to-day manager of Fonal Records and sometime collaborator with Kemialliset Ystävät. On Kaikkeuden kauneus ja käsittämättömyys (The Beauty and Inconceivability of Everythingness) Sänpäkkilä has cobbled together a warm mélange of glitch, musique concrete, drones, pulsars, lo-fi samples, vocals and live instrumentation that burns with the intimate glow of a bedside lap at 2 a.m.

His world does not so much come to us as it invites us to his bedroom. The gatefold package features drawings and oil paintings by close friends, the faces ghostly and distant, echoing the album's spectral voices and haunting melodies. Sänpäkkilä touches up his songs with the sounds of domesticity, like a hammer in a neighboring apartment or scissors cutting hair. Sänpäkkilä elevates theses sounds from their mundane existence by weaving them into the music's melancholy fabric. The hammer blows first reverberate like distant rumblings of thunder on “Hamuavia,” then become a dramatic loop on “Pehmeä Iho.”

The ten songs on KKJK creep with glacial melodies reminiscent of Sigur Rós. Not glacial in the pithy Nordic sense, but in the millennial creep of monolithic objects. Sänpäkkilä swathes his airy, cascading drones sparingly with piano fragments, violin, French horn and slide trombone (played by Avarus member Kevin Regan), levitating the songs above easy sentiment.

Sänpäkkilä’s spectrum of vocal styles gives human warmth to the electronic abstraction. The opening dedication features Noora Tommila incanting with lilting folk inflections. In Finnish, she lovingly chants: “To the sad, to the depressed, to the sleepless, to the lost, to the afraid, to the lonely.” “Juhlat” floats on a creaking, slowly suffering falsetto, while the title track shimmers with a choral-like intonation. “Aavehuminaa” repeats the opening chant in a whisper, until a droning church organ tone envelopes it in a soft sheen of pure white noise. The insistent first syllable stress of Finnish and its precise articulation rub against the fragile, extended tones that structure most of the songs, producing a slow, seductive friction.

Sänpäkkilä combines the abstract nature of electronics, and the visceral effect of live instruments and song structure to create an open and welcoming environment. KKJK is not self-aggrandizing pathos, but a humble invitation to come closer and be touched.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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