Monday, 13 January 2014

Ø (Mika Vainio) - Konstellaatio (Sähkö Recordings)

After the heaviness of last year's Kilo album, Mika Vainio now ascends, almost weightlessly, into the Kosmos. Some tracks, however, are anchored by slow, muted beats, therefore we don't completely drift, gravity-free, through space. But hold on, that space image on the sleeve deceives unless your Finnish is good. Translated, some titles read A Midsummer Night Elves (Kesäyön Haltijat), and The Tree Of Life (Elämän Puu). So is this Vainio in Middle Earth? Has he gone soft? No, thankfully. The final track, Takaisin, means Back if the translation machine is right, so we are on some kind of journey, just not the kind non-Finnish speakers might assume.

Fear not, there are no flutes, harps, or mandolins involved, though I doubt you'd expect those from Vainio. If this is a 'mystic' record, it is one with edge and the depth of spatial sound you'd expect from the man. On Talvipäiva, Vanha Motelli (Talvipäiva, Old Motel), after some initial audio shocks to the brain, there a long spells of silence as well as ghostly vibraphonics. Vainio visits The Overlook? Something like that, whilst sounding nothing like The Caretaker.

There's something almost symphonic about Metsän Sydän, which suggests, in a minimalist fashion, the mysteries of the forest. Much of what lies beneath seems to be where the heart is, in the faintest of sounds, the suggestion of danger, the distant bleep yearning for contact in the eternal blackness. I can't help thinking of Egisto Macchi's classic albums, although there a few sound similarities the atmosphere here is shot through with the same kind of restrained electronic finesse.

Unlike so many would-be voyagers today, Vainio shuns clichéd futurism in favour of creating a magical otherworldliness at times and this album is all the better for it.

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