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)