Alamaailman Vasarat – Huuro Kolkko

Alamaailman Vasarat – Huuro Kolkko – 4/5

Trust the Finnish to choose a name so obscure no English-speaking man would be capable of remembering. Rather aptly chosen considering the overtly Avant-Garde sound I would be hesitant to refer to as a form of Jazz. An instrumental piece, certainly with many of the instruments associated with the genre; cello, trumpets, trombones and tuba’s, saxophones, drums and clarinets, the sounds created belong to no jazz genre. Likewise they can’t be pinned to any specific rock or metal genre, feeling neither ‘here nor there’ but rather an obscure ‘in-between,’ breaching a void that previously I was blissfully unaware even existed.

At times displaying an unusual melancholic chaos, other times a thick doom filled confusion. The doom-filled tuba, creating a tone so deep it has drone bands shitting themselves, counteracted perfectly with an assortment of unconventional saxophone styles and the slow grinding of cello’s. Quickly transitioning into a strong ‘groove,’ fitting somewhere between jazz funk and old school doom, once again counter-balanced by the upbeat tune of the cello’s, sounding something perhaps akin to if Petrucci (Dream Theatre) collaborated with Paganini (classical composer).

In a break from tradition, in getting to grips with the scale of tones provided here, background information as the inspiration of the band (and in particular this album, taken from their own site) may be of benefit. Huuro Kolkko was a Finnish explorer in the early 1900s unrecognised by his peers. He received no funding, and without hope of being remembered for his work he set off to explore the world, discovering untouched islands, lost tribes and cataloguing a vast array of new plant and animal life. This is the album in memory of his journeys, taking influences from his notes and journals chronicling his travels. This means that the music is just as likely to transport you to a lazy afternoon in China as it is the tribes of Africa, the folk tones of the Middle East or the energetic bazaars of Morocco.

Each instrument is carefully layered in a rich – almost classical – composition, yielding focus to various instruments too numerous to number. In fact, conventional instruments wasn’t even enough to satisfy this bands desire for specific sounds, playing a ‘tubax’ (somewhere between a tuba and a saxophone, designed and made in ’99, delivering a more earthy, rich timbre at a deeper tone to the sax) as well as playing the cello so slowly so as to deliver a slow grinding tone, similar to a pick scrape on a guitar (except at a constant pitch). Despite this, the cello’s frequently find themselves stealing the show, heavily distorted and amplified to play somewhere between the more conventional acoustic sound, and their equivalent of the noise-rock tone, providing a unique atmosphere even when the saxophone is most prominent.

The band describes themselves (jokingly) as “kebab-kosher-jazz-film-tr
affic-punk-music.” The joke is perhaps that this isn’t far from being true. This is the sort of Avant-Garde band that the other Avant-Garde bands pointed at in the playground and called weird. This is beyond most Avant-Garde, where you can pick out the influences; this is a seamless blur of genres, swaggering past with a grin as it watches you try to piece it together again. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoyed “Diablo Swing Orchestra,” what it lacks in vocals it makes up in sheer consistency. It simply has to be heard to understand.

Highlights: Mielisaurus, Tujuhuju, Luola