Kemialliset Ystavat, Ullakkopalo (Fonal, 2010)

Kemialliset Ystavat have been one of the most hard to
pin down acts in experimental music over the last decade. You can kind of
get an idea of what you’re going to hear before their albums drop, but you
never really know what kind of scope and approach it’s going to take on.
Kemialliset Ystavat always consists of Jan Anderzen, but could include
other musicians, could be solo, or could include guests such as Sun Ra or
Karlheinz Stockhausen through samples. His cover art is also some of the
best in the biz, with an overstuffed, brilliant, "Garden of Earthly
Delights" kind of vibe. In any event, the project remains one of the most
exciting psychedelic listenings from a richly talented Scandavian scene,
and throughout the world, really. After releasing his last full length in
2007 (also very atypical for experimental artists) more than a few people
were ramped up for this new offering.


And if you’ve read a review before this one, bewilderment is the most
likely sense you’ll find. The samples are there, the electronic elements
are there and the folk elements are there, but in no way is any of it easy
to get a hold of or wrap your head around. In a genre where compositions
or improvs usually take place over a longer period of time, letting texture
and depth take over for melody, Ullakkopalo manages to create such depth
and texture in much, much shorter compositions through the use of intense
layering and challenging the concepts of melody in experimental music. The
tracks on this album do have an ADHD type quality to them, with just the
sheer number of layers and quick segues between themes. However, the focus
is apparent in how a seemingly over-saturated track tends to make perfect
sense or how a segue flawlessly transitions the mood of a song.

The album itself is also very cohesive as a whole, even if the songs tend
to be schizophrenic at points. It slowly builds through the first few
tracks until it hits its peak on the sixth track (I’m not going to bother
trying to type out all these Finnish words) and slowly ebbs out. The peaks
are just moments of aural beauty, made possible through the slow build of
tension, while the ending seems to have elements of free noise improv, kind
of spacing out in austere surrealness. Anderzen is adept at creating music
that is as visual as it is sonic, lending to the idea of a theme that
persists from one end of the album to another. Again he shows his talent
and master attention to detail by creating an album that could be frantic
at any second, but as a whole is a unified vision. In a style of music
where albums are typically a collection of tracks, this is a welcome breath
of fresh air.

So far I’ve listened to Ullakkopalo a few times and have felt a range of
emotions in doing so. I am discovering new things and being challenged
more with each listen. While it is too early to give it a final "grade",
it is always engrossing and interesting. I find the best albums are always
ones that you need to spend a lot of time with to really appreciate their
brilliance. I look forward to finding out if Ullakkopalo is going to reach
that level of brilliance.

-Hermione Marquis


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