Session 4 - Alamaailman Vasarat

 

Reminder - ProgRockVideoNight will showcase a unique power cello-klezmer band from Finland tonight - starting at 7:30.

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Our ProgRock video series will resume this Tuesday night, when we'll feature a unique band from Finland - Alamaailman Vasarat.  As you can see from the description below, these guys live between genres - they are probably one of the most unusual groups we'll be featuring this term.  Note that, because of scheduling issues, we're running this program on Tuesday night this week - NOT Wednesday - but still starting at 7:30 PM on the third floor video wall of E14.

 

Ah Finland - a fascinating and wonderful country in many ways.  Everybody associates Finland with reindeer, forests, sauna, cellphones, and high technology - but those of us in the know prize this place also for some of the most most innovative and out-of-left-field music that's now being made.  There's certainly something of a legacy here.  Going back to the early 70's, proggish bands like Tasavallan Presidentti (and their great guitarist Jukka Tolonen) were already known to a few of us in the US, as was the beautifully intricate prog/jazz music composed by Pekka Pohjola.  If you dug a bit deeper back then though, there was also, for example, Haikara - an amazing group of "rock" musicians who were already comfortable escaping genre in intense, fascinating and strange ways.  This is a characteristic that defines much underground Finnish music now.  Somewhere deep in the woods there (or perhaps in Helsinki basements during the long winter darkness) musicians are putting sonic influences into a boiling still, then adding a pinch of their famous dry humor to produce a fearless musical beverage that tastes like Earth's culture interpreted by a hyperadvanced civilization in another corner of the galaxy who just don't get it.  A few hits of this brew will open the ears of anybody with musical curiosity (heaven help the others).  And what a diverse scene it is...  Off the top of my head come Circle (they deserve their own category, blending Krautrock, metal, new age, and weird cultist styles into their own melange), spacerock (e.g., Hidria Spacefolk and Taipuva Luotisuora), folky noise music (there's a ton of this, like Kemialliset Ystvt or Avarus), dark quirky subpop with electronics (Keuhkot, The Cleaning Women), extreme stoner (Tivol, Pharaoh Overlord), dramatic postrock (Magar Posse), utopic poppy eurosynth (Aavikko)... It's a broad musical landscape, full of left turns and strangely familiar landmarks often eroded beyond recognition.

 

Alamaailman Vasarat (their name translates as "The Hammers of Hell)) are prime among these Finnish genre-benders.  I'd say that they play something of a heavy-metal klezmer music.  They call their style "kebab-kosher-jazz-film-traffic-punk-music with a unique Scandinavian acoustic touch".  I'd broadly agree with this.  The band sports a keyboard player (mainly pump organ and melodica), a reed player, a trombonist, two cellists (frequently playing with distortion), and a drummer.  One piece of their music can bring you from Alban Berg to a Jewish wedding, perhaps stopping enroute at a New Orleans funeral, but never quite escaping the effluence of Black Sabbath's garage .  As expected, the playing is great, the music is intense, and these guys keep you guessing.  The band has some elements (if not members) in common with Apocalyptica (3 cellists and a drummer known for their Metallica covers) and Hyry-kone (an amazing cello-dominated avant-prog band).  Despite the levels of doom these guys can reach, they maintain a sense of humor throughout - yes, very Finnish indeed.

 

We'll be playing bits of their recent "Haudasta Lomilla" DVD on Tuesday - they term it a "4-hour hammerfest" that spans 7 gigs, but we won't make it nearly that far - I'll subsample a couple of hours or so of material that should keep us all from aliasing.

 

I look forward to sharing this acoustic elixir with some brave musical souls on Tuesday....  You can find out more about these guys at their website:

 

http://www.vasarat.com/ 

 

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Joe Paradiso (Spring 2011)