Review from Foxy Digitalis

Pekko Käppi is a player of Jouhikko, the ancient Finnish-Karelian bowed lyre, in all-improvised settings and traditional folk songs.

NB: Don’t be fooled, this is a full-on, fucked-up, inspired, deeply innovative record with its teeth firmly in noise, sound-sculpture, improvisation and great song writing. The most obvious comparison would be Ghédalia Tazartès, as Käppi fuses a vast array of recording techniques with a love of the traditional, in full awareness of the avant garde. He remains, however, separate from pigeon-holing. I have used numerous comparatives through this review to depict the incredibly varied sounds of “Vuonna 86”. The LP is comprised of 10 short pieces playing in atypical pop division. Käppi’s voice is gravelled and strained, singing deep from the throat. He whistles and growls increasing the breadth of his vocal pallet. The undulating rhythms of his music depict a turbulent landscape, as if fried through the brain of the artist. The fuzz and distortion of the recording adds an unusual harshness that one would expect from lo-fi tape filth artists (Nevari Butchers, The Haters). All is composed with a control that juxtaposes some of the improvised nature of the original recordings. It lends a sculpted feel I find both inspiring and successful.

The Jouhikko is allowed room to lead by the fourth movement. This is a beautiful little piece of seemingly traditional folk. It maintains the coarseness of previous recordings without veering to readily ‘into the red’. It’s unbridled honesty and simplicity is quite overwhelming.

The use of the Jew’s Harp kickstarts a mad journey into a splattered landscape akin to the visions of Ralph Steadman. It’s Gonzo lunacy sings with guttural vocals that bring to mind Tom Waits circus madmen. Further bizarre jigs bound with distortion and devilish decay. The short snaps of traditional, versus dirty analogue filth bears comparison to the recent output of Harappian Night Recordings.

Mad cocks crow to reveal a pounding agitated punk (Harry Pussy/Rusted Shut) type riff that absolutely knocks you for six. It’s alien vocals land as if plucked from a European 80’s bedroom Goth band. It makes you wish for a collection of killer 2 minute tracks to dance around to (preferably on your own, or with selected semi-naked friends). All burns away into field recordings that creep into view with an unleashed audacity. Noise splurge and free improv blast in a microcosmic vomit, then things take a deeper journey of heavy repetition that induces hypnotic trances. Wavering tones move the mind in subtle shifts beneath the din.

Finally things placate with a truly moving sprawl across arid landscapes and darkened skies, forever bereft of a long absent northern sun. The kin left to ponder the forgotten landscape that fades in recent legend. Desperate attempts to tune an old radio fail to inspire hope. The demons that stole the light taunt from afar, safe beyond the airwaves. Hope and prayer persist and we enthuse at the trials of this loner, this madman against the soil. Eventually all is consumed by the dark, the radio waves become malicious fingers that strangle sound to pitch nothing.

This is a great piece of work that is almost there, but simmers beyond complete digestion. It is utterly intriguing, brave and well worth falling into.

8/10 –Peter Taylor, January 2010