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Friday, May 06, 2005

RIVER OF FINLAND

Loki has quite rightly been getting hot under the collar about the staggering amount of great music that's currently haemorrhaging out of Finland. I've been meaning to post about "River of Finland" by The Anaksimandros for a few weeks, but never quite got round to it. Time to rectify that.

Great LP cover (tho' sadly chopped by my non-vinyl-friendly scanner):



(Also: the labels feature some fantastic mediaeval woodblock-prints of mermaids and so forth.)

The music of The Anaksimandros falls heavily on the "Free" side of the Acid-Folk divide: initially, it sounds deceptively anarchic; looser than a badly-pegged tent flapping in the wind, a bunch of scrumped-up teenage non-musicians rehersing their first 'band' in the spare bedroom. This is mostly accoustic (with an occasional low-key blast of echo/FX-pedals/keys): a collage of clanks, clicks, scratches and clangs; detuned plucked instruments, percussion, whistles, birdcalls, flutes. Someone tries to set up a drum-kit, but it collapses. Sometimes it sounds like Sonic Youth Unplugged; other times it sounds like someone has partially-erased a very old cassette-tape of Edgard Varese, or maybe we're hearing the first recordings of a parallel-universe Sun-Ra who grew up on a farm in Kansas without ever hearing Jazz.

But the brain's pattern-recognition circuits soon kick in and a sense of near-subliminal structure makes itself known to the listener: Jeez, these guys actually know what they're doing...

Swat aside your suspicions and step inside, senor, for there are some wonderous gems and rough-cut jewels aplenty on display here. "The Bones Tell me Nothing" is a drunken, detuned gamelan orchestra accompanied by Peter Hook of New Order (who has been locked in a wardrobe in the next room). "White Oasis" sounds like, er, a Pre-School Play-Group being terrorised by an enormous amplified mutant bumble-bee. The title-track is irrationally beautiful: a dozen or so assorted accoustic guitars and plucked instruments lock into a bizarre lop-sided/one-legged marching-song groove that takes us far up a mountain-road and down along a dusty track until the whole ensemble suddenly get puffed out and have to sit down.

Elsewhere, an electric guitar sounds like a stoned wasp looking for someone to sting. In the background, elderly Cosacks sing a wordless lullaby. The tapes speed up and slow down randomly; someone trips over a xylophone. A blind piper picks out an atonal melody while a trio of carpenters fix the door of his outside toilet.

Forget I even used the word 'Folk', this is how I imagined Surrealist Music sounded when I was young. I want to soften this for you and say that parts of this LP sound like vocal-less outakes from the first Residents album, or have the alien atonal snarl of "Trout Mask", but I'd be lying. This almost sounds like we've stumbled on something...something that maybe we weren't meant to hear. At points, despite the occasional electrification, it almost sounds like a Time Machine was involved. Embracing this music requires an un-learning process; a savage mind-wipe: Do. It. Now.

This is the opposite to Shanty-House: this is Local music for Local people.

Thrilling, shocking and unexpected: switch off your prejudices, for this will grow softer and stranger with each listen.