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Tomutonttu - Tomutonttu / Tomutonto

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Artist: Tomutonttu

Album: Tomutonttu / Tomutonto

Label: Fonal

Review date: Oct. 9, 2009

If Kermialliset Ystävät is Jan Anderzén’s crazed riff on the band concept, then Tomutonttu is his wry take on the solo electronic artist. That he confusingly appears to switch up his moniker on these two releases shouldn’t confuse you, and charting any clear differences between the two is a waste. Tomutonttu and Tomutonto all flow from the same source: Anderzén’s demented, all-in re-think of bedroom psychedelia. And the fact that these are actually re-issues of out-of-print LPs from a few years back isn’t really significant, as Anderzén’s musical development fails to snyc up with any evolutionary path, regressing and advancing seemingly at will, and his dense constructions rely very little on any kind of linear progression.

Using a clutter of thrift-store keyboards, second-hand guitars, toys, noisemakers, a few pedals, crude tape effects and a sampler, the hour of music on these discs make a convincing argument for recycled music as the wave of the future. No instrument probably cost more than $20, and the only computer these pieces most likely saw was at the mastering stage. That he’s outclassed everyone with more expensive rigs and fancier editing apps is clear from just about any of the 16 pieces here.

Anderzén doesn’t let any space go to waste, hiding infinite layers of percussion patterns or manically pulsing keyboard riffs in plain sight. Most notably, he’s elevated his sound sources above their modest means. He masks, manipulates and transforms them, performing lo-fi alchemy that results in a blissful version of R. Murray Schafer’s schizophonia. His toys don’t sound like toys, and that makes all the difference. He lashes all his new material onto junk loops that appear, disappear and re-emerge a few seconds later, making his rhythms and phrases highly elastic. It helps that Anderzen is able to build these loops out of anything – bird calls, primitive single-note lines on de-tuned guitars, piano samples, feral human growls pitched way too high, blasts of indecipherable noise. Then he adds new loops at odd angles, or changes directions altogether. When recognizable instrumental gestures do jut out of the mix, it’s startling, but it’s only a moment before the mechanized weirdness that came before returns to swallow them.

A full hour spent with these albums can be exhausting. You are left feeling like you have spent the day in an art museum and are physically unable to take in any more mental input, the intricate weave of patterns and colors blurring, losing their definition, and becoming just that – patterns on a flat surface. Brash sensory overload is Anderzén’s chief dynamic, however; subtlety plays no role, and you have to admire it when someone moves through ideas this quickly and irreverently, doing it without pretension or premeditation. Anderzén is just tapping his own home-brew of musical surrealism, and having a blast doing it. But key to the success of these revelries is that the fun carries over to the listening.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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