#recentlistening – August 2019 (2 of 2)

Espen Berg Trio – Free to Play
Espen Berg, Bárður Reinert Poulsen, Simon Olderskog Albertsen 
Release date: 6 September 2019 (Odin Records)
propermusic.com/product-details/Espen-Berg-Trio-Free-To-Play-270001

Maria Chiara Argirò – Hidden Seas
Maria Chiara Argirò, Leïla Martial, Sam Rapley, Tal Janes, Andrea Di Biase, Gaspar Sena
Release date: 27 September 2019 (Cavalo Records)
mariachiaramusic.bandcamp.com/album/hidden-seas

João Lencastre’s Communion 3 – Song(s) of Hope
João Lencastre, Jacob Sacks, Eivind Opsvik
Release date: 20 September 2019 (Clean Feed)
joaolencastre.bandcamp.com/album/song-s-of-hope

Pigfoot – Pigfoot Shuffle
Chris Batchelor, James Allsopp, Liam Noble, Paul Clarvis
Release date: 6 September 2019 (Pokey Records)
chrisbatchelor.bandcamp.com/releases

Daniel Erdmann’s Velvet Revolution – Won’t Put No Flag Out
Daniel Erdmann, Théo Ceccaldi, Jim Hart
Release date: 13 September 2019 (BMC Records)
bmcrecords.hu/pages/frameset/index.php

Oddarrang – Hypermetros
Olavi Louhivuori, Osmo Ikonen, Ilmari Pohjola, Lasse Sakara, Lasse Lindgren
Release date: 27 September 2019 (Edition Records)
oddarrang.bandcamp.com/album/hypermetros

‘Agartha’ – Oddarrang

Agartha

IT’S THREE YEARS since Finnish band Oddarrang came to the attention of UK audiences with their third studio album (and first with British label Edition Records), In Cinema, plus live gigs. Now, once again under the leadership of drummer and composer Olavi Louhivuori, new release Agartha permeates the senses with that same, statuesque wall of sound.

The line-up is less than conventional (a clue can be found in the quintet’s name which, rather than having its roots in folklore, was in fact devised from ‘odd arrangement’). Alongside Louhivuori is trombonist Ilmari Pohjola, guitarist Lasse Sakara, bassist Lasse Lindgren and cellist Osmo Ikonen; and there’s significant band input on synths and voices, with Ikonen also adding Chinese/Asian stringed instrument, the erhu. So whilst Oddarrang’s original music displays the power of progressive rock and the drama of widescreen soundtrack, it is also flooded with the broad, open spaces and inflections of Scandinavian folk.

In fact, it feels like Louhivuori’s world is informed by many influences, opening number Aletheia mysteriously awakening through synth ostinati and sustained, descending hazes redolent of Vangelis and Tangerine Dream. This is not blistering-solo jazz, nor mundane ambience. Instead, a series of anthemic, post-rock panoramas are meticulously fashioned, often seeming to build their anticipatory energy towards a blazing aurora; and melodic Central Sun, in particular, reveals both the force and beauty of this fine instrumentation – steely, unison trombone and voices above driving guitar and percussion, steadfastly facing into the wind. In Admiral Byrd’s Flight, an ardent rock groove of determination and intrigue is woven around pulsating, phased electronics and impassioned cello (the stuff of adventure movie climax).

The remaining two tracks of five hint at those extended, storytelling, prog expeditions of yore. At around ten minutes’ duration, slow-burning Mass I-III moves through a series of connected movements, its orchestral poise maintained by trombone, cello and string synth sustenance; and the more folsky guitar addition opens the door to windswept electronics and a thunderously-drummed conclusion. And Telos/Agartha (the album is titled after the legendary city at the earth’s core) is another extended opus whose gaseous, overlapping textures invite the beautiful, cantabile vibrato of the erhu before eventually reaching a hymnal conclusion, with triumphant trombone and cello melodies elevated above the band’s now-familiar layers of synth and percussion.

Oddarrang’s ability to radiate awe and wonder through their specific instrumentation and careful detailing is sure to appeal to those who appreciate emotive, majestic soundscapes.

Released on 23 September 2016, Agartha is available as CD, vinyl or digital download from Bandcamp.

Video: Mass I-III

 

Olavi Louhivuori drums, synths, voice
Ilmari Pohjola trombone, synths, voice
Lasse Sakara guitars, voice
Lasse Lindgren bass, synths, voice
Osmo Ikonen cello, synths, erhu, voice
with
Aino Peltomaa voice on Aletheia

oddarrang.com

Edition Records – EDN1079 (2016)

‘In Cinema’ – Oddarrang

ODDARRANG_300

IMAGINE……. a vast landscape… panning around to take in distant mountains, forests and luminous skies… and a cinematic soundtrack portraying an ever-changing vista of climatic conditions… daybreak, sunlight, rainstorm, quiescence, afterglow…

This third outing from Oddarrang – ‘In Cinema’ – sees them building significantly on their previous releases, ‘Music Illustrated’ and ‘Cathedral’. The Finnish five-piece’s precise sound is delightfully difficult to define – maybe ‘experimental jazz’, perhaps ‘new age’ or even ‘folk jazz’. And, intriguingly, the shifting timbres and hues are created by a refreshingly atypical instrumental line-up: the masterly and lyrical lead of trombonist Ilmari Pohjola and cellist Osmo Ikonen soloing over strong-yet-sensitive layers of guitars, bass, synths, piano and harmonium. Composer/producer Olavi Louhivuori (also known for his work with the Tomasz Stanko Quintet and Alexi Tuomarila Trio) presides on drums as well as keyboards, his authoritative percussion a key element of the band’s identity.

The ‘new age’ tag comes from comparisons I can make with the early output of Mike Oldfield – the repeated guitar lines, percussion and plaintive melodies of third track Missing Tapes from a Highway Set, for example, reminiscent of ‘Hergest Ridge’ or its seminal predecessor ‘Tubular Bells’. But this is no imitation, for it lives and breathes by its own strengths – a hugely distinctive sound palette with a terrific sense of dynamics and intricacy; compositions often growing in intensity, such as Lasse Sakara’s guitar-led ticking timebomb of The Sage which eventually explodes in dazzling full colour.

Newly-released single Self Portrait is a joy to hear up-close, opening with a beautifully legato cello/trombone melody against a delicate wash of synths, sustained guitar chords and cymbals, before upping the tempo and crescendoing to a vocal, guitar-crashing conclusion. The potency of this (to my knowledge) unique line-up is that acoustic and electronic instrumentation melds so pleasingly and effectively – frequently it’s tricky to discern the overall make-up of the sound… which, to my senses, is a great achievement! Trombone and cello lines are so ravishingly executed, yet the sum of parts is where this album succeeds.

The misty, folksy beginning of the curiously-titled, eleven-minute Cultivate & Contemplate finds Pohjola and Ikonen in elegiac mood, whilst guitar and percussion again introduce and develop the band’s characteristic anticipatory momentum. Journey explores the full range of Oddarrang’s expertise, the pulsating intro giving way to a serene interlude before finally rocking it up to fever-pitch intensity, Louhivuori thunderously pushing the limits, electronics enhancing the play-out. Bassist Lasse Lindgren provides the writing for the slumberous final number, Quiet Steps – a charming bell-like melody which suggests, at the close of our journeying, a darkening firmament revealing constellations as far as the eye can see.

Oddarrang are embarking on a tour to accompany this remarkable new release (superbly produced for Edition Records by Olavi Louhivuori and Dave Stapleton, with beautiful ECM-like monochrome sleeve photography from Tero Ahonen) – see web links, below, for details. I certainly look forward to their upcoming live interpretations at Manchester’s Band On The Wall, as well as Kings Place, London – by all accounts, an experience not to be missed!*

*UPDATE: Oddarrang’s Manchester and London performances were moving and exhilarating in equal measure – highly recommended!

Digital release: 30 September 2013; physical release: 7 October 2013.


Olavi Louhivuori
  drums, piano, synths, harmonium
Osmo Ikonen  cello, vocals
Lasse Sakara  guitars
Ilmari Pohjola  trombone, guitars
Lasse Lindgren  bass, synths

http://www.olavilouhivuori.com/category/news/
http://www.oddarrang.com/

Edition Records (2013)