Hannu Karjalainen – A Handful Of Dust Is A Desert.

KK 101 HK Cover_rgb

“A Handful Of Dust Is A Desert” is the third Hannu album following on from “Worms In My Piano” (Osaka 2006), “Hintergarden” (Kesh 2009) and the “Harhailua” Ep (Kesh 2009). This is his first release to feature his full name. During the past eight years, Hannu has been keeping himself busy with his multimedia art explorations utilizing photography and film, more of which can be viewed here.

“A Handful Of Dust Is A Desert” is released on the Berlin based Karaoke Kalk label (home to Hauschka, Dakota Suite, Senking and others) on vinyl /CD /Digital editions with physical pressings in editions of around 500 copies. Hannu Karjalainen’s association with Karaoke Kalk started with his remix of Dakota Suite’s “The End Of Trying Part III” on “The Night Just Keeps Coming In” in 2009, which also featured remixes by the likes of Hauschka, Deaf Center, Loscil and many more.

The label describes the album as “Instantly captivating and for lovers of ambient music, dream listening. As an artist who trained in photography and is mostly active in the world of visual art, Hannu Karjalainen clearly enjoys a great deal of creative freedom in his music. This is the kind of desert you won’t mind getting lost in and even take pleasure in roaming through the expansive sonic landscapes and horizons it embodies.”

“Angel” opens the album with lush affected swathes of ambient Synth with granular before the major hook of the track is introduced which takes on a variety of shapes as it is manipulated and twisted around. This is complimented by deep ambient Synth that give the track an almost dubby feel in relation to how thick they are as opposed to traditional dub techno like sounds. The synths and the granular sounds consistently change shape and position filtering in out of the soundscape providing contrast from the more nicer sounds to the grittier sounds. The ambient synths particular have a pulsing sound like they are waves crashing as they pound the coast. The label describes it as being reminiscent of Boards of Canada’s finest work, but I find it has more depth than BOC.

“The Emigrant” a slow paced rhythm starts off the track on Glockenspiel and Synth that has a highly melodic if subdued sound, mixed something a bit more ominous and also Sci-Fi as well. The Sci-Fi Synth waves come in layered loops, while the Glockenspiel has a percussive edge to it and a child like playfulness. Pulses of electronic sound splatter out like tentacles and synth ripples float out filling up every aspect of sound making the track aurally rich with the feature being the Glockenspiel rhythm.

“Love, Unconditional” mixes up dreamy ambient Synths with watery piano keys, static loops to create a pure ambient track where everything is flowing out and engulfing. The Synth is thick with weight, the piano keys ripple out and the static loops remind of field recordings of natural electricity.

“Meille” is a haunting drone meditation with string like sounds and subtle ambience that are low in tone and are mournful in their length. A flute like bird song comes into play and gives the melodic transition to a more darker territory where the synths have an austere sound to them and in way almost like the haunting sounds of whale songs. A nice comparison of elements.

“A Handful Of Dust Is A Desert” has an intro reminiscent of one of those classic Richard D James or Aphex Twin albums (the label quote later period Susumo Yokota) with multi layered piano loops come in and out. The contrast is that one is more subdued than the others frantic rhythm. Despite the title track being 2:15 in length it is a nice counterpoint in that the album can oscillate between Ambient and IDM and this track covers both genres easily.

“A Year In The Day” starts with electronica style Synth pulses with crackled beats and looped handclap percussion. Just when you think you know the direction the track is heading in a melodic guitar that sounds almost Synth like comes in and changes the direction of the track. After a short break down the original electronica styled Synth returns with a shaker percussion accompanying it before the guitar returns and the handclaps lead the track out to the end. The track manages to cover the electronica side of things with a slight nod to post rock in the guitar department.

“Love Is A Black Lion” features a piano sample of the Dakota Suite tune “The End Of Trying Part III”, which is what brought Karjalainen to the label in the first place. The track opens with record groove dust sounds while a haunting drone cascades and a minimal section of morose piano is played. Other drones enter the mix with sounds seemingly lurking deep in the mix which build up the sound. Industrial like sounds cut in an out in a haunting desolate fashion with a dark ambient edge to it. Parts of additional piano sound like they are played on instruments that have been exposed to nature. This is a track that goes over several genres and is not easily pigeon holed.

“Breaks My Heart She Aria” is the epic and fitting finale. Layers of choral samples over granulated sound form a heavenly drone which is supported by synth drones. Train brake slamming like noises shudder in and out as a swirl of electronics swarm around the drones with sounds going in every possible direction. The layers cascade over each other and build up ever so slightly in intensity with storm like feel that settles down to center on the drones in the last two minutes of the track just leaving the choral ambience to take us to the end. The track never goes over the top and Karjalainen knows when to reign it in perfectly.

While his previous albums were more rooted in the Experimental/Electronica genre with Electroacoustic influences, “A Handful Of Dust Is A Desert” finds itself more in the Ambient/Electronica field and is a much deeper ,epic, widescreen and lush album. Definitely one to listen to again and again and get repeated enjoyable listens.

HannuKarjalainen

Advertisements

William Ryan Fritch x 2 – The Old Believers & The Sum of the Parts.

If there ever was such a relationship between a label and its artist that is responsible for such a wealth of material as there is between Fritch and Lost Tribe Sound, I would be surprised to find one. 2015 saw the “Leave Me Sessions” series which saw a total of 11 albums (over six and a half hours in total, spread over CD, digital and vinyl) released to subscribers. Lost Tribe Sound has released over 20 of his albums including those under the Vieo Abiungo moniker.

“The Old Believers” and “The Sum of the Parts” were two soundtracks that were part of the aforementioned “Leave Me Sessions” and sees them gain a wider release with both releases getting new artwork and “The Old Believers” having an additional 8 tracks from other works that compliment the original album. With such a wealth of material , I have selected tracks from each release to focus on.

Lost Tribe Sound boss Ryan Keane has this to say about these albums: “It should be noted, that calling ‘The Old Believers’ and ‘Sum Of Its Parts’ soundtracks paints an incomplete picture. Too often the genre or classification of “soundtrack” brings to mind sloppily arranged carbon copies of a film’s cues; often just a few main themes and a collection of one minute tracks that, when not set to picture, fall short of an overall worthy listen.”

This last statement is noted when listening to these albums as while short in length (length ranging from 1:14 to 4:06), the pieces don’t seem to be vignettes or have a different musical style to represent different moods. You would be none the wiser if you did not know of their soundtrack status.

“The Old Believers” is a documentary short film that tells the story of a group of Russian Orthodox Christians who are attempting to preserve their 17th century way of life in 21st century America and coping with surrounding modernization and internal conflicts.”

“Of A different time” opens the album with violin drones and cello that cut a mournful feel and also one with a hint of nostalgia laid over the faintest fielf recordings. Shimmering strings lead into a section of isolated percussion while violin repeats a fast rhythm that drops out to return to the original mournful cello and an ambient sounding string section to the fade out.

Acoustic guitar with gentle tones comes into the mix on the track “Clouded Was Every Prospect” (not on the original album) which becomes the bed for a variety of string sections such as cello and violin to attach themselves to and veer the piece between such styles as folk, modern classical and ambient. There is deft texture and layering of instruments that give both depth and feel to the piece. Judging by the title of the track but not seeing the film, it’s for a section of the film presumably where no decision is ultimately the best one. This could be heard in the musical territory covered.

“Left to Wander” sees percussive guitar that is roughly plucked and strummed with some minimal bass drum beats woven into an alt – folk tapestry with different speed of instruments as strings such as cello and violin with some clattering, while others are gently strummed. Sounds like something that could come out on the Constellation label.

“Still and Dense Solitude” (not on original album) sees layered classical guitar with a slight Spanish feel accompanied by the bass rumbles of cello and soaring violin with all instruments propelling in the same direction and speed. As opposed to other tracks that see the instruments and their sounds juxtaposed, these sounds compliment each other and they all build up with the same pace in the second half of the track.

“Who fell the Last Tree” (not on original album) fuses a lush Ambient intro alongside picked and scratchy violin with field recordings and a haunting multilateral drone and percussion. The field recordings which sound like someone walking through snow are paired with a shaker like instrument that gives the impression of an axe being swung into a tree. The Ambient touches, the first for the album give the track a much different feel than others while still retaining the core instrumentation and overall theme.

“By the Letter” is a beautiful interlude with gently played acoustic guitar with a lead element played over the rhythm that has a feel of distance , while a near silent drone slowly increases in volume from the shadows to be the feature element as the guitar almost abruptly stops. When listening to this track I am visualizing a scene where images of the past are superimposed overprotect times.

“We Fear Change” is a multi layered piece with at least five different things going on at the once – from the likes of delicately finger picked guitars, bass drones,violins and percussion elements (but maybe not traditional percussion instruments). A highly layered and textural piece that while packed with elements is not stuffy or claustrophobic. The layered guitars propel the track with the elements like violin providing the mournful quality like the title would imply. Possibly the standout track on the album.

“The Last Frost” is pure drone piece where a central drone emerges at a slow pace that is vibrating while accompanied by a lighter melodic one which is mimicing its texture, while a more celestial drone starts creeping in trying to come through which it briefly does just before the track finishes.

“The Old Believers” features a similar motif to that of “We Fear Change” and “Clouded Was Every Prospect” in respect to the guitar playing which has the natural unadorned picking style. It doesn’t take long for other elements to come in such as bass drum beats, violins, drones and very sad sounding cello. Fritch gives each instrument its chance but also gives the track the space to breathe with elements such as the cello and drones retreating and the focus being brought back to the rhythms created by the acoustic guitars. It is a well measured track with sections that overlap give depth and continuation.

“‘The Sum Of Its Parts,’ the feature film from award winning filmmaker/editor Fiona Otway’s introduces some of the world’s foremost robot researchers alongside tomorrow’s future leaders in robotics. This film explores the messy front lines of the crusade to make robots part of our everyday experience. From initial sketches, to soldering wires, to programming actions and performing experiments “in the wild”, scientists, high school students, and artists obsessed with bringing robots to life are shaping a new era in our relationship with technology. Yet, by observing their successes and failures along the way, what becomes clear is that robots actually have a lot to teach us about what it means to be human.”

The obvious idea for composer when writing for a film that is about robotics and future technology is to do a futurist (or retro futurist) electronic soundtrack. Fritch doesn’t take that approach, instead he ops for making the music more orchestral, large scale and sounding epic.

“The Sum of the Parts” has a radiant drone opening this string driven mini opus with the quality you would expect from a Clint Mansell soundtrack. Cutting strings, bowing cello’s and drones wrap around each other, building up each layer with a driving quality. The feel is reminiscent of a scene of a movie where the central or climatic part of the movie is happening. Subtle bass drum keeps the pace while the strings build up speed.

“Idling” is a short track with an ambient loop leading the intro makes you think it will remain in this genre, but it becomes a string driven track with a ‘glassy’ ambient feel. The combination of cello and violin mixes with the prominent ambience and acoustic guitar to a very light and summery feel. Is like a modern classical track without the austerity.

“Mechanized” You get the feeling of wonder when listening to a track like this at how one artist can come out with such layered pieces such as these. With violin strings sawing over the thump of a cello accompanied by a swarm of strings that’s literally at least 5 or 6 different sections all working together in support if each other. Time is given to let each instrument shine with elements being tge focus before retreating into the background to reveal itself once more.

“Gnashing Metals” starts with a thump of cello before entering a section of a series of violin pieces, presumably prepared piano with a toy like sound and picking or scraping sounds of string instruments to create this motorik piece that has a driving nature and falls in this almost bleak apocalyptic alt-folk sound with its clanging instruments.

“Unfounded” the return to the cinematic soundtrack as mentioned in the title track is the hallmark of this track. All encompassing ambience with classical strings that move in a glacial pace and have a haunting mournful sound to them. The strings lilt and waft before xylophone heralds in the low timbres of the cello to add bottom drone that is almost entirely droned out by the strings as they gain in intensity and and total domination over the track till towards the end where just the ambience, xylophone and bass drum remain.

Throughout these albums Fritch shows his musical chops in the form of composer, musician and recorder. His strength lies in his ability to construct multi layered pieces with an attention to, structure and how the instruments work together. If I were to chose between these two albums Would pick “The Sum of the Parts” purely because my taste leans more to the cinematic feel than the more rustic Alt-Folk that his is familiar with. However, both albums are recommended.