Friday, September 18, 2009

Foxy Digitalis review of 'Mushroom Heart'

Joonatan Elokuu "Mushroom Heart" CD-r
Kiiltomatolyhty / Hear

Having never heard of this wandering psych-folk visionary before, I was absolutely blindsided by the first song on this extremely limited CD-R. “Adieu to Old Finland” (a recontextualization of the traditional prison ballad “Adieu to Old England”, popularized by Shirley Collins) is an utterly haunting and mesmerizing duet between Joonatan and his wife Helena. While already perfect as a strictly vocal piece, the duo is gradually supplanted by a brilliant coda of menacing ambiance, somber banjo, and a strangled, nightmarish guitar. The pair later achieve a similar, albeit somewhat lesser, feat on the more sprawling bookend “As Fair as Gilead” (a cover of “Solomon’s Song” by Incredible String Band defector Clive Palmer’s remarkably obscure C.O.B. project). Elokuu has quite a knack for unearthing and revivifying great lost songs.

The rest of the album never quite equals the achingly beautiful opening, but it’s still quite memorable. When Joonatan is the sole vocalist, he sounds a bit like some of Death in June’s more inspired moments (especially during “Rain Falls Hard on Camden Town”), yet warmer and more timelessly rooted in traditional music. While his songs are quite strong to begin with (most are originals, though he also covers Donovan’s “The Little White Road”), they are often inventively enhanced by subtle intrusions from field recordings and psychotropic electronic drones and hums. Elokuu displays a rather unerring intuition for the perfect balance between mind-warping experimentation and song craft, as well as an ear for augmenting his organic, uncluttered songs with beautiful harmonies and splashes of color from a wisely employed array of flutes, accordions, and other instruments.

Interestingly, this album was recorded over a period of three years, during which Elokuu traveled around Finland, the British Isles, and India and used whatever instrumentation was available. Despite this rootlessness and the ever-shifting circumstances involved in its conception, “Mushroom Heart” is thematically coherent, well-produced, and meticulously constructed and sequenced. Equally surprising is the fact this is merely the debut release for this project (Joonatan was previously involved in the more free-form Aura Shining Green), yet it already sounds lived-in and fully formed. That said, it has two minor weaknesses: Elokuu’s originals are not quite as strong as his covers (yet) and Helena’s captivating vocals are woefully underused. Nevertheless, this may very well be the greatest album ever recorded by a peripatetic Finnish folkie (and it is certainly one of the year’s most pleasant surprises). I can’t wait to hear more. 9/10 -- Anthony D'Amico (17 September, 2009)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Terrascope review by Phil McMullen


( CDR from Kiiltomatolyhty )

Given that this album was recorded at various times during wanders around the British Isles, holed up in a cabin in Northern Finland and time spent contemplating the Himalayas, this is an astonishingly coherent and competent collection of folk improvisations and free-form drones from Finnish multi-instrumentalist Joonatan Elokuu, ably assisted on vocals here and there by his wife Helena Halla, most tellingly on the gorgeous intro ‘Adieu to Old Finland’ (based, needless to say, on the traditional song ‘Adieu to Old England’ rendered immortal by Shirley Collins – as an aside, the song was collected originally by Cecil Sharp during the 1950s in Westhay, Somerset which also happens to be my own place of birth – hardly surprising then that the song has a particular resonance for me!). What marks this as unique, special and very, very memorable though is the way the song evolves: from the traditional folksong intro, Joonatan then pulls the listener headlong into the world of Six Organs of Admittance, with lush psychedelic drones fronted by electric stringed instrumentation (banjo, guitar, God knows what).

The influences throughout are as varied as the paths trodden in the making of the album. ‘As Fair as Gilead’ which closes the album is a C.O.B. cover, here stretched and pulled into an eleven minute epic worthy of the United Bible Studies (yes, it’s that good). There’s two songs sung, fittingly, in Finnish, entitled ‘Purjehduslaulu’ and ‘Solmu Loputtomalla Langalla’ – it’s a beautiful language which, like Welsh, reads like it must be unpronounceable and yet somehow lends itself exquisitely to being sung. ‘The Calling of Crows Beckons Us Home’ is distilled Davey Graham, with Donovan-esque vocals and busily plucked acoustic backing. There’s more Donovan with a cover of his ‘The Little White Road’. ‘A Hushed Lullaby’ continues the sterling work begun on the ending to ‘Adieu to Old Finland’, with the sound of lapping water serving as a backdrop before launching into a song which stylistically nods towards the Kitchen Cynics in delivery.

Altogether this album is a stone-cold beauty which is deserving of being more widely heard. Definitely an artist to follow, and you can be sure we here at the Terrascope will be keeping a weather eye open for more in a similar vein... (Phil McMullen)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Review of 'Mushroom Heart' from Gerald Van Waes's

Joonatan Elokuu : Mushroom Heart (FIN,2009)****

I received this privately released cdr of 100 copy limited edition only, which its small amount of copies is a bit a shame. This reminds me a bit of early The Owl Service, which deserved also wider recognition, and luckily their release was taken up by Leaf records afterwards, I hope the same will happen with this one.

The tracks have just a few returning harmonic drones, a trippy harmonic bass drone (with breathy wind effects or accordion or textured organ and peddling water sounds,..) starting and ending the compilation, like breathing in and out, with some picked and electric improvisations with psychedelic effect, the acoustic picking songs that lead the tracks are mostly in the British folk tradition (from old flavours to new territories). The first song, “Adieu to old Finland” is based upon the British traditional, first sung solo by Helena Halla, then with second voice by Joonatan. Most songs are kept relatively in its basic expression, with subtle arrangements of acoustic guitars, melancholic accordion and voice, while when with (the sweet second voice) Helena Halla and the beautiful textures it sounds even more complete. Beautifully different, also in use of language, sounds “Purjehduslaulu”, the only Finnish song sounding very close, in singing, language and accompanying style, to the acoustic, Welsh band Pererin at its best. Also included is a rather English tradition styled “The Little White Road” by Donovan. “The Calling of Crows beckons us home” is a bit bluesier, just with two acoustic picking guitars. “As Far as Gilead” from C.O.B. is stretched to an 11 minute song, slowly and moodily, but arranged with the necessary elements, and a beautiful outro. A beautiful album.

Info & audio :

link to review:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Joonatan Elokuu - Mushroom Heart: limited handpacked CD-R released.

Download from

In cooperation with Hear Records, we have released a limited CDr version of 'Mushroom Heart'. This edition comes in handpacked nature-friendly cardboard sleeve with alternate cover art. Not only does the cover art & packaging differ from the version that will be released by Hear, the songs on the limited edition are mixed differently. Numbered 1-100. This release will be sold through Kiiltomatolyhty, at shows & during our wayward adventures from August onwards, for the meagre price of 8e (+2e postage).

"Mushroom Heart was recorded & finished during years 2006-2008. The recording process was divided in to three sessions; the first (roughly around 2006) was connected to a period of vagrancy & wandering around Scotland/British Isles, while the second session (2007) was inspired by time spent in hermitage in a cabin by a small lake in Northern Finland. The third (2008) was connected to a longer drop-out in the Himalayas in North India, where the ideas for the next album were also conceived. The album was recorded in various different locations, and the instrumentation was largely dependant on what was available at the time. The songs on the album have evolved from the work Joonatan did with his previous project, Aura Shining Green. The album documents a transition from improvised, free-form acoustic music towards a more structural and song-based approach. The CD-r edition is limited to 100 hand numbered copies. Mushroom Heart will be followed by a LP exploring this sound further, and an EP of more minimalistic songs with a single instrument/voice, in vein of the live shows Joonatan has been playing with his wife Helena."

Tracklist [extended]:

1. Adieu to Old Finland - Trees, Stones, Earth
2. Rain Falls Hard on Camden Town
3. Purjehduslaulu
4. The Little White Road
5. The Calling of Crows Beckons Us Home
6. A Hushed Lullaby (To the Old Windmill)
7. Hedgehog Sanctuary
8. Willowisp Lantern
9. Solmu Loputtomalla Langalla
10. As Fair as Gilead - Anneli

'Adieu to Old Finland' is based on a traditional song
'Purjehduslaulu' lyrics were written by Maija-Liisa Kauppinen
'The Little White Road' lyrics by Thora Stowell, music by Donovan P. Leitch
'As Fair As Gilead' is a rendition of 'Solomon's Song' by Clive Palmer (C.O.B)
Cover artwork & additional vocals by Helena Halla
Mastering by Mikko Määttä.

This is the first official release available through Utupuu.