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Kiila - Silmat Sulkaset

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Artist: Kiila

Album: Silmat Sulkaset

Label: Fonal

Review date: Aug. 9, 2004

With a lineup that's exploded from two to seven people for their latest album, Finland's Kiila have also expanded the reaches of their sound. Silmat Sulkaset is simultaneously both light and dense, an accomplishment considering seven players could have ended up an audio mudpit. Instead, Kiila carefully blend primarily acoustic instruments with scattered electronics, resulting in delicate, spacious constructions that breathe.

The vocals are of particular note; beautifully layered harmonies that range from the ghostly chants of the opening "Kelmeja" to the madrigal-inspired "Mina - Laulu" and the traditional folk style of "Vasailyn Luostari." It's these vocals that distinguish Kiila's new album among others currently following in the psych-folk format, adding a gorgeous tinge of melody to the underlying songs. The only band that approaches this combination is Japan's Ghost, who bear a resemblance to some of Kiila's more acoustic pieces.

Most of the pieces on this fairly short (37 minutes) album evolve at a slow tempo, generally based around simple percussion and strummed guitars. Woodwinds, organ, and less easily identifiable instruments complicate the mix, and, if done poorly, could have resulted in the sort of music heard at your local Renaissance Faire, but Kiila imbue it all with purpose and soul, as well as just enough underlying power to keep it all from floating away.

"Katect Linnut"'s strumming carries a sense of urgency, which increases more so when a brittle-sounding slide guitar and moaning organ drop in. The song could settled for pretty, but thrives with a strong, strange backbone that gives it additional depth and body.

Most of the songs here also carry a whiff of melancholy, even at their most beautiful. The elegiac chorus of "Kelmeja," the sparkling strings and harmonies of "Vasailyn Luostari," and the slow, dense drone of "Pysahtunect Planeetat" all feel like stories of could-have-been. Since they're singing in Finnish I'm only guessing from the music, but I'd be surprised if these are songs about sunny days.

The only song that doesn't work for me, oddly, is "Kivia ja Taivasta," which I would guess is one of the improvised pieces here. It's more strident and chaotic, with a variety of random wind instruments, keyboards, and percussion. The song simply lacks the flow and purpose of the others, and feels like a slight detour to nowhere. It's short enough that it's not much in the way, but still suffers by comparison to its surroundings.

In any case, Kiila have delivered a collection of delicate beauty, songs that hover and breathe while remaining purposeful and filled with a slow, but no less powerful, energy.

By Mason Jones

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