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Haikara - Haikara CD (album) cover

HAIKARA

Haikara

 

Eclectic Prog

4.23 | 150 ratings

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ScorchedFirth
4 stars (8/10)

Impressive eponymous debut from Finnish proggers Haikara (which means 'Stork' in English). There are tones of Van Der Graaf Generator's "H To He, Who Am The Only One" at times, although maybe not quite so complex. Oh, and with Finnish vocals. You will have to read the excellent review by Eetu Pellonpää to get a clue about what the lyrics mean (assuming you don't speak Finnish), which I would recommend, because they actually seem very interesting. Certainly they are often sung with a good deal of conviction and emotion at times. If anything, the Finnish language adds a more unique character to the band (much as Italian vocals do in RPI), and improves the overall sound, so don't be put off if you are an English speaker like me. There is an eclectic range of influences present too, from the early 70s contemporaries like VDGG and King Crimson, to older classical influences. Multi-intrumentalist band-leader Vesa Lattunen notes in an interview that "We made the first album when I was playing in Lahti Symphony Orchestra. There I got to know all the great classical composers. Prokofiev's Romeo and Julia made a big impact on me but I think Sibelius was even stronger. So, I got the idea to combine these two kinds of music (classical and rock)".

We start with the odd one out of the group, "Köyhän Pojan Kerjäys" ("The Beggings Of A Poor Boy"). It is shorter, lighter, and more uptempo than the others. It has a vague feeling of a jig about it. Perhaps these are traditional Finnish influences, as there is a folky almost carnivalesque teetering of saxophone and organ in parts. Cheerful and enjoyable, with some fun little flourishes, and entertainingly sung, it's a good tune, but not the real meat of the album.

Next is "Luoja Kutsuu" ("The Lord Asks For You"), which gives us a taste of the more mellow side of this album. The vocals work well here, restrained to begin with, but breaking loose and growing angrier and more dramatic as the song gathers pace towards the finale. The tolling of a bell accentuates the more sombre sections. Very cool.

But it is the third song, "Yksi Maa & Yksi Kansa" ("One Land & One Nation") where Haikara really begin to show us what they are capable of. It starts with some mournful saxophone that really sets the tone well. The strings are great too, but the saxophone is what really sets this one apart. This is especially true towards the end, as the main theme blares out over the driving beat of the drums, whilst the often psychedelic (slightly Hendrixian) guitar, and a similar organ/keyboard, rumble below the surface. It always good to hear saxophone really blasting for a finale. The slower passages are melodic but also sad, and contrast very well with the more chaotic parts. Again the vocals are strong, and add a lot to the song.

"Jälleen On Meidän" ("It's Ours Again") then follows. It has a slightly jazzier feel to it, and lumbers along in a stop-start manner between excellent vocals and the instruments taking a lead for a while, with the saxophone often going off on it's own tangent before the song can start again. Guitar keeps busy in the background as support, and there are some quite catchy sections to it.

"Manala" ("Underworld") is a really good end to the album. The opening has the same sort of feeling to it as "Stairway To Heaven", but that all ends when saxophone and bass come thudding in, along with guitar. The whole thing kind of dissolves into a rather free sounding slow chaos, that swirls around before quietening down again, leaving only the march of the drums, creating a lot of tension. That's when the whole band explodes back into action, launched by the saxophone into a dark rumbling 7/8 riff, the saxophone eventually veering around wildly. The rest of the song is one of my favourite sections on the album, and ends on a questioning note, as if left incomplete.

To offer a criticism, occasionally the arrangements can seem a little sparse, or the overall sound seems like it could be filled out a bit more, but to be fair, this album did come out in only 1972, and overall is a very impressive record, especially as a debut. As I mentioned before, there are lots of different parts, some chaotic (but not entirely as mad as VDGG or KC), others darker more solemn moments of mellow tone. The songs "Yksi Maa & Yksi Kansa" and "Manala" are the obvious highlights, but all the material here is of a high standard.

Definitely compulsory to anyone wanting to explore 70s eclectic prog beyond the main players. "Haikara" is a highly enjoyable slice of prog, with it's own distinct personality. It certainly deserves more attention than it is currently getting.

[Edit: For those interested, an English translation of the lyrics is available linked in the forums]

ScorchedFirth | 4/5 |

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