This album reveals itself near the end, I think, during “Lyön Häntäni Vetoa, Täällä Oli Äsken Joku”, when a shamisen enters the mix, along with the croaking of a frog—shorthand for peace and tranquility, meditation, Zen, and ponds—but the frog is probably mechanical, the shamisen might not be a shamisen, and within seconds a mass of other noises is cramming itself into the space around them. Ullakkopalo is not an album of peaceful moments. It is an album that banishes peaceful moments. It denies peaceful moments, it is one long un-peaceful moment. It buzzes, it squeaks, it plays a piano. One voice sings, then another voice sings, the voices are distorted, the voices are played over one another, the voices are replayed and replayed, and there is more buzzing, some lightbulb static, and clockwork boings, everything rising, sinking, and swirling. “I try to keep KY constantly moving,” said Jan Anderzen, the collective’s leader, in a 2001 interview, “although it feels that certain things recur over and over again.” The CD comes with a booklet of one-paragraph essays, and the key essay is the one about William Erman from Nashville. “Erman holds that … humans interact collectively and unconsciously in a way that creates geometrically perfect movements, cycles, and patterns of growth … As a product of humankind, markets are as inherently natural and perfectly patterned as … termite mounds.” Ullakkopalo has the natural/unnatural uncanniness of a termite mound—life, yes, but life carried out at an over-clocked speed, strangely un-fleshy for a living thing, yet too irregular to be called robotic. Fonal’s other psych-folk artists walk a similar-sounding line between acoustic and nonacoustic effects, but Kemialliset Ystävät is perhaps more willing than any of them to take music to an extreme. Risks incoherence but avoids it.
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// Notes from the Road
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