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Kemialliset Ystävät - Alkuhärkä

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Artist: Kemialliset Ystävät

Album: Alkuhärkä

Label: Fonal

Review date: Jul. 26, 2004

Those seeking to sort out the personnel differences between Finnish psych improv units Avarus, The Anaksimadros and Kemialliset Ystävät (and the meaning of their names) will discover only a maze of esoterica and inside jokes. Moreover, those trying to find some direction in Kemialliset Ystävät's Byzantine labryinths can stop looking now. The collective's Hermetically-sealed mastermind Jan Anderzén instead uses abstract maps that fit David Toop's description of the modern 'sound object': "a shifting open lattice in which new ideas can hang, or through which they can pass and interweave."

Each piece on Alkuhärkä is rampantly eclectic, making a list of instrumentation untenable. One can, however, pull out a few threads from Anderzén's tangled ball of yarn. After an intro of sizzling electronic noise and primal grunts, a radical jump cut transforms "Hirvikärpästen hovissa" into a whirling dervish dance of nasal horns and pulsating howls. The shift mimics the spirit, but not the form, of gamelan's crack-the-whip movements. Like Harry Partch's compositions, which used gamelan elements even more prominently, some of KY's music has a majestic mood, like court music for some imaginary kingdom.

"Kamelin hikeä" lumbers on a bleak piano arpeggio while a synthesizer blares saw-toothed tones into a pulsating web of trilling strings. "Korien kasvattama" recalls Sun Ra's sci-fi void, theremin-like squiggles dissipating into space as a looping bass synth phrase hurtles headlong. "Kaatuvan ihmipyramidin svengi" pitter-patters with a ragged minimalism. A xylophone steadily chimes, a shaker mechanically fills in the gaps while bells and accordions flutter in the distance.

But these are only threads, reference points. Anderzén is closest in spirit and methodology to 1950s Japanese outsider Teiji Ito. Like the multi-instrumentalist's King Ubu (Tzadik), warped theater music Ito created by continually overdubbing himself, Alkuhärkä continually reveals strata buried in the crackling lo-fi mix. Instrument do not easily identify themselves, and "Kirppusaari" uses what might be a bicycle pump, its pneumatic pump-and-release hissing rhythm around whistling, tingling strings, bells and accordion.

Anderzén, also a visual artist, populates his soundscapes with so many ostensibly random aural images, that at times the pieces evoke a Dali canvas. Objects are dropped onto a surreal three-dimensional plane - space without dimension, time without beginning. "Kyyn sisuksissa" seemingly begins mid-performance. Guitars are strummed incessantly, a bass drum thumps, voices whine and flutes swoop in and out.

The music on Alkuhärkä mutates unceasingly for 43 minutes, forming a fragmented suite of two-minute movements. The CD itself is wrapped in Anderzén's own magical primitive paintings, and includes some winking, pseudo-mystical liner notes in which Anderzén tells of a dream where "there was no space, no people, no traces of action." Alkuhärkä is a rabbit hole into Anderzén's head. One can only imagine the perverse glee he must take in showing us around.

By Matthew Wuethrich

Other Reviews of Kemialliset Ystävät

Varisevien Tanssi / Silmujen Marssi


Lumottu karkkipurkki (Vapaa systeemi) / Kellari Juniversumi

Kemialliset Ystävät


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