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Aki Peltonen - Radio Banana

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Artist: Aki Peltonen

Album: Radio Banana

Label: ReR Megacorp

Review date: Dec. 24, 2005

OK, let’s get the Astor Piazzolla comparisons out of the way immediately. Yes, there is certainly a Latin tinge to much of what I take to be Aki Peltonen’s debut. I’m not sure it is, but it’s certainly my first exposure to this clever, diverse and weird Finnish composer, and RER is the perfect home for such genre-bending.

The first few sounds of “Orchestra, Accordion and Drums” tell the story, or fragments of it. Medium-wave radio sounds fade in sharply and hurls itself headlong into a funky-fresh jazz-inflected brass-bass-and-drum groove with accordion swirls, and it’s a mind-freer and an ass-shaker, the radio squealing and vibrating above and beyond it. “Accordion and Drums” – all the titles are simply instrumental deployments – lulled me into a false sense of tonal and improvisational security from which I was awakened by the second occurrence of “Orchestra, Accordion and drums.” Immediately, the radio is a much more integral part of the work’s compositional fiber, stuttering in streetwise sample-mode over an even hipper and hypnotic groove. All is eventually shattered by a burst of radio-driven white noise, followed by silence, after which shards of familiar thematic material poke through more din and volume changes.

By the end of the disc, especially at the beginning of the final piece, the radio is fully integrated into a texture that bristles with energy-suffused percussion and headstrong delay, even invading the melodic fragments that eventually enter.

While moment-to-moment juxtapositions can be harshly disturbing, the disc unfolds as a witty examination of gradual introduction; more and more space permeates the texture as the disc follows its 40-minute trajectory, leaving room for each sound to achieve maximum effect. Each timbre is introduced with consummate craft and in what seems to be its proper place regarding the disc as a whole. By the conclusion, the radio, enhanced by rhythmic delay, has become absolutely integral to the composition, no mean feat in an area where others have failed. A challenging and fun listen from one of 2005’s most interesting discoveries, and I look forward to more.

By Marc Medwin

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