Folk

The Solar Apparatus – The Solar Apparatus

web_kristalliFinnish oddball instrumental progressive folk group The Solar Apparatus released their first full-length album in 2016. While the basis has a lot of stuff happening and a lot to like, the entity is still hard to distinguish from elevator music. It would actually work well in elevators or in an art gallery yet it lacks memorability, even though it seems different melodies and instruments are continuously introduced from the “rainbow rollercoaster” (like they describe themselves, not at all unwell). The traditional rock instruments are paired with for example violin, pleasant harmonica and harmless soaring from a feel good family movie, with oh so much major key. It works well as a background music to daily activities fading away to background.

Before The Solar Apparatus arrange themselves a vocalist or evolve and tighten their compositions, I’m afraid they fail to captivate me. There’s lot of effort to reach for the stars but the melodies fail to reach the galactic level, often drifting somewhere between the celestial bodies. But as they are, they really could find people in the world music terrain that are captivated. They would fit right in to a young, urban hipster, hippie or underground festival kind of bright celebration where young yuppies, hippies, vegans and junkies dance their worries away stoned or high on craft beer (Wicker Man, World Village Festival, Flow, Sideways etc.).

I hate to negate small releases and obscure bands that do a lot of things right, but when it comes to my subjective opinions about music that should be straight from my alleyway, “pretty nice” is just not good enough.

But there’s merit even I can fathom. The playfulness of the track names is amusing. Golis Zefin’s sinister piano interlude is refreshing alteration. Remembrance and Ametisti have nice 70s prog touches in riffing, but are too long a compositions. Actually the same goes to pretty much every other track too. Elffin’s is another two-sided beast, the first half is extremely unforgettable neo-prog that does not seem to go anywhere until it is forcefully transformed into a post-rocky bright outro reminding of trance uplifts. The melodies are strong and would surely appeal in a live setting.

But the best pieces are served already in the beginning duality. A tranquilly progressive piano piece Seed and crunchy riffing Everleaf hit close to the mark. Uncoincidentally they are also the shortest pieces without idling. Man, these guys must have listened to another Finnish oddball group Taipuva Luotisuora. Their influences definitely sprout from the same tree though Taipuva Luotisuora has more progressive elements and a lot more Kingston Wall present.

To end on a positive note, The Solar Apparatus is certainly a band with plenty of potential. They could unveil something classic in the future, they have the elements and the abilities. But that time is not on their 2016 release. Keep your eyes open.

Bandcamp: https://solarapparatus.bandcamp.com/album/solar-apparatus
Home page: http://thesolarapparatus.com/

Paavoharju – Tuote akatemia / Unien Savonlinna EP // NMMREM XXIV

Paavoharju is a Finnish folk / ambient band / collective which has a truly unique musical style (something along the lines of freak folk). Their both full-lengths Yhä Hämärää (2005) and Laulu Laakson Kukista (2008) are enchanting pieces. They combine mysterious folk, lo-fi, ambience and surprisingly catchy elements, somehow usually avoiding to be artsy or annoyingly indie and getting to huge depths of natural feel.

Between the full-length albums Paavoharju released a largely unknown Free Download EP Tuote akatemia / Unien Savonlinna in 2006. It is a varied effort, mainly in good sense. The EP starts with a bang; two tracks that are among the best Paavoharju tracks of all time, forebodingly beautiful Nuo Maisemat and a live version of Kuljin Kauas. Usually live versions are to be passed with a shrug but Kuljin Kauas (Lepovaunu-05 Live) captures the live feeling extremely well. It adds so much raw-power to the composition, it competes side-by-side with the original album version. I didn’t know Paavoharju could be so heavy live!

Listening the album well over 10 times it is quite descriptive that a few months after the last listen, from the last 5 tracks I can only remember one, Pepe. Pepe is a left-over sounding Joose Keskitalo track, alike “Italialaisella laivalla” in Laulu Laakson Kukista LP (Joose Keskitalo is a Finnish singer-songwriter known of his Eponymous project). I do like Pepe and even had a short crush to it, but in my books, its quality is lower than nearly any track in first three Joose Keskitalo records (which are all near-masterpieces).

By no means is the end-album bad, it is just a lot less catchy and more of freaky ambient origin. Tavataan 12-7-2004 has some beautiful piano work. Mitä Sinä Et Ole nears worthlessness and is only saved by haunting female vocals. Tartu Tähän Hetkeen encompasses the Paavoharju ambient sound, but feels bit more raw and unpolished than most of the ambient pieces in their full-lengths. The last track Salatut Käyvät Julki is a melancholic pretty guitar and pump organ outro, very Rural-Finnish.

A good release with two extremely strong tracks and only one filler. Kudos to them for not trying to make money with a collection of oddities, but it really could have been a “real” release. It is almost as captivating and magic as their full-lengths, but not quite. If it wasn’t a free download I would not recommend it for Paavoharju beginners. But as it is, if you enjoy the pieces here you will for sure love the full-lengths.

8+/10

Free Download: http://archive.org/details/mia061

Joose: “Nimenomaan tonin laulua!”

Hyvämakuinen yleisönjäsen: “Hieno.”

Tarkasti analysoiva yleisönjäsen: “Tää on musiikkia.”