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JUKOLA

XL

Eclectic Prog


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Matti
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars ... and This Artist Altogether :-(

XL were a Finnish instrumental group (of academically educated musicians still active in the jazz scene) whose recordings were made between 1995 and 2003. Their music is - if it had to be put in one sentence - groovy, electronic, eclectic, modern "nu-jazz". Composing credits are shared by midivibes player Arttu Takalo and guitarist Jarmo Saari. This is their second album. By the way, Jukola is referring to The Seven Brothers (1870) by Aleksis Kivi, our national author, but there seems not to be any further concept, it's just the title of one of the tracks.

'Helsinki 2000' is a brief opener concentrating on percussion and tribal-like choir chanting. Not very interesting actually. 'A.S.P.', whatever it's an abbreviation for, has a machine-like throbbing backbeat on top of which mainly midivibes and guitar weave layers. On 'Young Blood' is guesting the famous Michael Brecker on tenor saxophone, helping the groovy music to get some air beneath its wings. 'The Dream Master' starts quietly in a creepy, gloomy mood. I feel some PEKKA POHJOLA in the build-up and melodies. Zagros Ensemble adds strings here and there. Among the highlights, clearly.

'Milou II' is also pretty interesting with a suitable amount of electrified groove and fresh-sounding vibes. 'The Palace of the Great Vizir of Angst' lasts almost ten minutes, so there's a lot of space for delicate playing to paint inner images of the surroundings. Starting quietly as if in fear of waking up somebody there... Again the music partly resembles post-seventies Pohjola, but the main difference is in the arrangement. I enjoy those vibes! Of course there might be more new ideas for the last minutes too.

The two next tracks feature the voice of Sanna Kurki-Suonio, first as wordless in the ethnic style, then with brief lyrics - too brief, in fact, since these vocals bring nice variety to the album. Takalo's pair of 'Nocturnes' represent XL's rather rare romantic & sensitive side. Beautiful, if slightly mild and unspectacular. The 9-minute title track features Pentti Lahti on five different saxes, as well as the strings of Zagros Ensemble. Composer Jarmo Saari approaches PIIRPAUKE territory with folklore elements.

I'm not an advanced XL connoisseur to evaluate Jukola against their other albums. Personally I'm not very moved by this music. It feels a bit dry and academic, despite its brave genre-crossing uniqueness. It may work better as cool background soundscape than as the object of concentrated listening. Some more emotion and/or liveliness to the game, thank you!

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Posted Thursday, July 17, 2014 | Review Permalink

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