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Sala-Arhimo - Sala-Arhimo

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Artist: Sala-Arhimo

Album: Sala-Arhimo

Label: Last Visible Dog

Review date: May. 5, 2006

This self-titled album is the first solo CD by Finland's Jukka Raisanen, a member of Islaja. On these 11 songs he plays a host of instruments, including guitar, sax, flute, keyboards, percussion, melodica and harmonica (not to mention his vocals, which make an appearance on about half of the songs).

Listening to the CD, I kept returning to adjectives like ghostly, frail, eerie. These songs are like fragments of a slow, scary movie – not today's fast-moving slasher flicks, but films like Legend of Hell House where it was about the suspense, not the blood. In the same way, these songs are about suspense and atmosphere – nothing flashy, just a careful balance between beauty and melancholy.

Sala-Arhimo is about songs, make no mistake. Many practitioners of this type of music today collect a few layers of sound and call it a song, and Raisanen does that occasionally on this CD; "Turilas ruusussa" is an example, an instrumental piece that's just sax notes over a repeated guitar motif that lacks the direction of the best songs here. Similarly, some of the songs lose their thread partway through and devolve into mere collections of sounds.

More often, though, we get complete visions, from the opening "Onnellisten saari" – a very pretty little melody, perhaps melodica or even harmonica, over a steady plucked guitar – to the closing "Luominen jatkuu," an oddly pretty song given its deep drone and chittering electronics. It's primarily the vocals that give it a hint of beauty amidst the eerie ambence. In any case, the song is a nice, creepy ending for the album.

Among the others, the melancholy "Muotoja taivaalla" is very successful; simple acoustic guitar picking and gently rattling percussion with an appealing singsong vocal. The wheezy organ breaks fit in perfectly. Of all of the pieces, "Talviunta" feels much like a Six Organs of Admittance song; the vocals are a bit similar, and the song's based around the voice, a repeating guitar melody, and occasional chiming bells. It's one of the prettier pieces here.

I'll be looking forward to more from Sala-Arhimo, to see how he evolves his peculiar vision of songwriting. In the meantime, this album will be receiving quite a few late evening spins around here.

By Mason Jones

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