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Keuhkot - Toimintatapoja Olioille

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Artist: Keuhkot

Album: Toimintatapoja Olioille

Label: Ektro

Review date: Sep. 18, 2005

Finland has been justifiably praised for spawning eccentric underground heavyweights such as Circle and Kemialliset Ystävät but the one-man band Keuhkot ("Lungs") makes his celebrated compatriots seem positively pedestrian by comparison. Liberated at the end of the ’80s from the absurdist folk-punk aggregation Liimanarina, the multi-media gadfly known as Kake Puhuu (b. Kalevi Rainio) has been establishing himself as a bona fide solo visionary and a true original in a nation that's teeming with oddball talent. His declamatory, humor-filled rants punctuate chop-shop pastiches of digital ethnic percussion, no-wave treble guitar and alternately synthetic and authentic textures inspired by various Third World cultures. Imagine the Residents as an out-of-tune Moroccan wedding group with a knack for surreal wordplay and you'll have a rather loose reference point for Keuhkot's lunacy. Peter Gabriel would probably not approve. Puhuu's berserk, occasionally ear-busting compositions serve as acidic commentaries on art, technology and Western logic, especially in the context of vaudevillian live sets that have included lotteries, foul odors, mechanized sculptures and homemade headgear. Each song is a miniature social critique from the occupant of a converted schoolhouse-cum-studio located near the quiet wilderness town of Pomarkku.

Keuhkot's fifth album, Toimintatapoja Olioille ("Methods to Objects"), basically picks up where its predecessor, Peruskivi Francon Betonia ("Foundation Stone Built from Franco's Concrete"; Ektro; 2003), left off. Steering away from the screech of his earliest releases, Puhuu continues to bridge the gap between primitive mischief and programmed menace by skillfully integrating exotic acoustic instruments into low-budget, keyboard-dominated kookiness. Warped, proudly clumsy motifs throw wrenches into the symmetry of rinky-dink electronics; dig the naive recorder toots of "Datametsä" ("Data Forest"), the tripping-all-over-itself clown-funk of "Vastuu" ("Responsibility") or the wooden pitter-patter that propels "Kääntäkää Kivetkin" ("Turn Every Stone Evenly").

The emergence of several downcast, almost romantic melodies is what really distinguishes Keuhkot's latest adventure. For some of the prettier tracks, Puhuu has replaced his typically enervated, mad-scientist vocal style with an uncharacteristic, nearly sober delivery. While the tip-toeing "Muistikortti" ("Memory Stick") spotlights his patented sawing, sour kamanjah (a single-string Bedouin spike fiddle), it's also the saddest, most emotive work in his canon. And there's nothing remotely wacky about the 73-second, English-subtitled elegy "Hiljainen Hetki Uhrien Muistolle (One-Minute Silence for the Victims)," which consists of the amplified whirr of a lonely zip drive plus a few faint incidental noises.

Of course, Toimintatapoja Olioille is hardly easy listening; portions of it still stomp like a gleefully sadistic military dictator barking at the patrons of a Balkan disco. But the excessive vituperation of yore has been eclipsed by genuine melancholy. The borderline sullen mood effectively frames Puhuu's lyrical meditations on how the computer revolution has homogenized daily life and muddled humanity's relationship with nature. The final phrase uttered in the aforementioned "Datametsä” – a hyperbolic snapshot of "fundamentalist" engineers who think that even trees can't grow without a database – concludes the proceedings on a simultaneously hilarious, paranoid and poignant note: "God spoke to me last night," gasps Puhuu in Finnish, "in SQL."

By Jordan N. Mamone

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