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Utopianisti - Utopianisti II CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.99 | 26 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars (My apologies that a whole year passed before I finally reviewed this album.) UTOPIANISTI is the artist name of Finnish multi-instrumentalist and composer Markus Pajakkala. He plays primarily drums and reeds, plus additional keyboards, vibes, programming and "various ethnic instruments". The debut (2011) made it very clear that music can be simultaneously funny and technically impressive; that it feels good for the musician to follow creative madness wherever it leads and to give 110 % commitment to it all. Naturally the listener is free to think that the results are sometimes rather irritating, but the sheer joy of music cannot be denied. This nearly 79-minute second album is even more ambitious, fuller of ideas and containing bigger arrangements. And with a charming hand-drawn cover art!

The tracks 1-8 are the album's main body "which took a year to carefully form and craft itself", and in contrast to that, the next four pieces under the moniker UTOPIANISTI MEETS BLACK MOTOR & JON BALLANTYNE were composed in a day and recorded live at JJ Studio, Tampere, August 2nd, 2012. And as a "bonus track" there's nearly 10-minute, breathtaking 'U.L.J.C. (The Unnecessary Leftover Jam Session)' which definitely sounds better than its title. But let's return to the start, to the main tracks each with a different line-up of guest musicians.

'Mekonium Fist' (according to the foreword "inspired by our first diaper change where four hands weren't enough") is hectic and fast. 'The Vultures Were Hungry' mixes opera vocals with ZAPPA- like avant-rock. 'Pohjola' is probably the best track, a gorgeous Fusion piece in the spirit of PEKKA POHJOLA to whom it is dedicated. It stays more serious than the album as a whole, without losing freshness and certain musical joy. 'Tango Succubus pt. 2' is sung in Finnish by opera baritone(?) Waltteri Torikka. This very angular piece featuring also an accordion reminds a lot of the 90's cult band HÖYRY-KONE.

On the meaty jazz-rock number 'The Forest of the Bald Witch' there are delicious contributions for e.g. flute, organ and guitar. Like three other tracks, 'Bisphenol A' features The Utopianisti Big Band, and has an emphasis on heavy brass and programming. It is my least favourite, as well as the 7th one, a hilarious, ethnically oriented (Balkanesque) tune featuring accordion and fiddle among others. ALAMAAILMAN VASARAT, the instrumental descendant of Höyry-Kone, did enough of this kind of silly crap (sorry).

If there had been only these eight tracks, I wouldn't much like this album with so many annoying things in it. The live tracks featuring Jon Ballantyne on piano and electric piano are airier, jazzier and more thoughtful, in other words quite free of the silliness. With a suitable use of skip button you'll have a wonderful musical trip with this extraordinarily brave release. My subjective rating would be three stars, but for the masterful musicianship and some amazing highlights it deserves four.

Matti | 4/5 |


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