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Psychedelic/Space Rock

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Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams
4 stars KAARNA is a promising Finnish psychedelic progressive / post rock band with Mikko Nurmi's matchless talent for composition, and deep bass, Mikko Iivanainen's fuzzy and dazzling guitar, Tatu's heavily and rigidly strict drumming. This album "Spring" is their brilliant debut album and simultaneously well-completed one.

We can feel their enthusiastic attitude for psychedelic progressive / post rock from the very beginning track "Twelve". Much complex codes, flexible plays, speedy ground-rumbling rhythm and kicks can knock and amaze us into their inner space. The next song "Four" notify us "two" Mikko's improvised and adrenalised guitar and bass solos, and delightful slow-tempo sound launch on a surrealistic Kaarnagarden. Let me emphasize that we can find in them certainly "North European delicate, smooth, matured aromatic soundscape like aurora". Dreamy, floating flowers are in "Montreaux", that sounds like their comfort or relaxation as if they be in the city named the same. Please let me know why especially Mikko Nurmi's deep bass solo can be so prominent and at the same time so graceful here. Not only bass but also guitar and percussion can be remarkably excellent - all instruments can construct such a beautiful city song. Contrary to previous one, "Scandal" sounds very unstable and carefully suspicious with sharp-edged steady plays by them. As if some life-threatened danger would come to us ... very exciting and curiosity-kickin' one.

From the fifth track we can join KAARNA's live stage. "Song" is an awesome song - with persistently repetitive heavy phrases by Mikko Iivanainen's calm but implicating guitar touches, and Mikko Nurmi's exaggerated loud bass, and Tatu's soft but terrifically rigid percussion. In "Motreaux (live version)" their plays (especially Mikko Iivanainen's guitar one) can get much louder and more psychedelic than the studio one - I love this more. Also the last "Four (live)" can let us feel strongly the atmosphere of their lively live, wonderfully.

This album is a mixture of four studio-recorded and there live-recorded songs, and it's absolutely amazing we imagine how their next "total" album will go ... so prospective.

Report this review (#288607)
Posted Tuesday, June 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
PSIKE Team & Band Submissions
3 stars KAARNA are a relatively new project of three talented musicians. They appear from nowhere ... sorry, Finland, but I'm thinking of the recognition here ... and offer a high quality kick-off with an EP consisting of four studio and three live tracks. Although linking to the psych/space ground there is considerably more to smell, strong eclectic hints and some jazzy moments for example, which makes 'Spring' to a rather entertaining example. The songs are presented with great coolness, totally instrumental, and here they have something in common with many other genre bands. Stylistically though they already have established their own unique outfit which comprises a well thought out balance of improvisation and composition - with the focus on the latter in my opinion.

I always tend to emphasize the obvious first ... the most playful instrument for example? ... don't want to be unfair to the others but for me it's Mikko Iivanainen's guitar work. On Four he offers his eclectic style in perfection. This slowtempo floating song is a killer, especially due to a multi-layered presentation which is implemented on the studio version. There is a spacey as well as crimsonesque vibe evoked by soaring, desperate and melancholic guitars. I'm probably on the wrong track but the improvisational impact seems to be at the minimum here. Mikko Nurmi plays a deep rumbling bass, relaxed - he's the band's main composer. His and drummer Tatu Henttonen's input is restrained, accentuated.

But this doesn't apply for all the songs. Scandal works in a similar manner first but later evolves to a funky orientation where the rhythm section is more expansive.Montreaux bears a slight fusionesque touch. The same with the first live track Song which proves their intuition as no other. Don't know how they managed it but I hear two guitars. The live version of 'Four' is differing to the original, more jazz styled too, with the attention on improvisation this time I would say.

Composition and intuition, they know how to make it. I recommend to listen carefully, it's worth it. This EP will be available on compact disc soon ... and makes curious what will follow. 3.5 stars for 'Spring' so far, it's not a full album and I'm sure we can expect more promising input from this band.

Report this review (#288899)
Posted Friday, July 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Kaarna's debut EP was a big pleasant surprise for me! Unknown Finnish band plays music I needed some listening to catch in, and I believe every next spin will open me more nuances. Far nor very often situation nowadays.

Album's opener, "Twelve", is heavy-weight attack of distorted guitars, with some melodic tunes (even Eastern?) deeply under the skin. Psychedelic jamming, but not boring at all.

Second song, "Four", is aerial down tempo guitar and loops based dreamy instrumental piece. With cool and melancholic melody line, coming slowly from somewhere and becoming electric guitar line on the front of the second half of the compositions. Some ambient feeling and Fripp comes to mind. And the whole song becomes a "quite storm" at its end.

"Montreaux" is very acoustic down tempo composition for guitar, with some extended distorted guitar jam at the end. Last studio composition on the album, "Scandal", is very Nordic scandal: combination between slow psychedelic distorted guitar aerial scapes and harder rocking same guitar splashes. All in very cool and too hot atmosphere at all.

After four studio compositions on the beginning of the album, there comes three live ones. "Song" is melancholic mid tempo composition, very jazzy in atmosphere, and with much more better balanced all the band's sound - bass line and keyboards build important part of common sound. Drumming is jazzy and very relaxed. And the composition in whole is psychedelic jazz fusion mix of Nordic folklore melancholy and distorted electric guitar's voice.

"Montreaux" live version sounds as jazz fusion composition, with guitar soloing and relaxed jazzy drums. From two this composition's versions on the album, I prefer this ,live, one. Live version of "Four" is finishing the album. Still very ambient sound, but live version has more jazzy feeling. In whole - really very interesting album, psychedelic cool mix of jazz fusion and heavy prog, mostly distorted guitar-led melancholic and very Nordic sound. The musicians themselves as their main influence mention Marc Ribot between others. Knowing some Ribot's works, from his collaborations with Zorn to avant-pop album with Russian Auktyon band, I would say that Kaarna's debut's music, even if having some Ribot's NY downtown guitar craziness, is much more influenced by Nordic guitar fusion school, like Terje Rypdal.

Very promising debut. Really will wait for their full album.

Report this review (#289190)
Posted Monday, July 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Nice psychedelic music from this young Finnish band!

Once again the advantage we have as members of a site like this, is that we can listen and appreciate to new acts that are willing to gain recognition. The "official review my music board" has been helpful for both, the musicians themselves and us, the listeners and reviewers. And now I have the opportunity to listen to a band from Finland named Kaarna, whose debut EP offers seven tracks, the first four are the studio ones, while the last three are live performances.

The first song is "Twelve", which starts heavy since the very first note. The psychedelic element is evident due to the guitar sound, and of course that bass and drums work that are always in the right place. When the song reaches the three minutes it feels and sounds powerful, heavier than ever. The distorted guitar plays a main role here and provokes an extraordinary and delightful sound. An excellent first song.

"Four" is a longer track and an excellent one. It sounds like an improvisation (it may have been an improvisation actually) with several noises that create a particular atmosphere, the string instruments are playing with themselves, doing a lot of things in few seconds. Some minutes later the song changes a little bit with the addition of drums, however, that jam session and improvisation seems not to end. Worth mentioning, that in some moments I felt I was listening to some King Crimson Discipline era passages.

"Montreaux" is a soft piece. The power and heaviness of the previous songs is over and here they offer a kind of jazzy song with a delicate sound. However, just before minute three the guitar turns a bit raw and that softness ends and a new sound appears.

With "Scandal" there is a nervous feeling provoked by that distorted guitar in the beginning, but later it changes and a new structure is being built up for some seconds. The improvisation-like sound prevails here, the guitar work is actually great because it creates lots of noises that create images in the listener (in my case), also the bass notes are always great in the correct moment.

The studio tracks finished here, and now the live ones begin. "Song" has an addictive bass sound that rings for a couple of minutes, while a constant drum and an odd guitar do their work. The song is progressing little by little until it reaches its "peak" at the last minutes (if that peak was intended), so those last two minutes are worth listening, more than the first ones, of course, in my opinion.

The last two tracks, Montreaux and Four are the just the live and edited version of both. The good thing here is that one can appreciate their talent on stage, their use of loop guitars and their facility to enjoy their music and share that joy to the listener.

This is a very nice EP, the first two songs were particularly my favorites, but in general it is pretty good. I like the way they combined studio and live tracks, interesting. However, I believe they can make something much stronger in the future, and I am looking forward to that. My final grade is three stars.

Enjoy it!

Report this review (#291902)
Posted Sunday, July 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This first EP of Finnish group Kaarna has recordings from both stage and studio, ranging from grandiose raw improvised stoner rock to more jazzy ethereal variations. The first studio captures introduce their constructive freeform aggressive catharsis, which reminds little the sound of The Psychic Paramount. Band has also a tamer side, presented by the second track lingering freely as glimmering high pitched tonal stars on the vast sky. Rhythm section joins the guitars later, and slow progression starts to evolve. Players focus really professionally to mutual reactive playing and have good chemistry when doing their sludge blues. Third song is more relaxed study of jazz themes, sharing the dark sounds of earlier tracks, and has a more angular and slightly stronger middle section which gives the song a wavelike structure. Fourth track starts in a kind of horror soundtrack feelings, pairing with taunting rhythm theme and tension building sequences, leading to hypnotic drunken passage for freak out soloing and an admirable groove from the drummer and bass player. The end appears little uncontrolled, but does not ruin the track. Also the edits of the track beginnings and endings generally could have been slightly more carefully done in my opinion. The live stage sessions have denser and wider sounds, and the first track of these starts with a simple repetition of drones expanding to wider explorations in sounds, an invention which ends to a circular cycle. Second live capture has a curiously wandering tender jazz tones leading to more relaxed and firmly onward progresses. Last track opens with volume pedal fade-ins, a nice way of bringing depth to the amplified sound. Open calm space is presented without haste, rolling in pleasant aural waves. Tender pickings lead to passage reminding little moody Landberk "sorrow sequences", which gain strength to the climax of despair ending this record. So, a nice fusion of elements, and a personal and sincere recording, recommendable for fans of both jazzy instrumental and heavier improvisational rock music.
Report this review (#292168)
Posted Tuesday, July 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Spring' - Kaarna (6/10)

I cannot say that the prospect of long-winded space rock jams fits all too well into my personal musical taste. However, I can spot talent when I hear it. Kaarna is a Finnish psychedelic jam trio whose debut EP 'Spring' has become something of an underground hit among space rock circles. Using an organic style of production to convey their improvised jams, Kaarna gives a very promising peak of their future as a band, although the wandering nature of the music tends to wear thin after a while.

Laid back, at times grungy and never in a rush to go anywhere particular, 'Spring' seems to be a perfect album for space rock afficionados around the world to light their bongs to.There is an evident influence of early Pink Floyd and some of Hawkwind's less upbeat material in Kaarna. The sound is not particularly innovative or original, but Kaarna does feel like their own band here; jazz nuances really help to give the band an identity that sits a step above the legions of cookie-cut space jammers out there. The music here generally consists of improvised guitar soloing courtesy of Mikko Iivanainen, who does feel to lead the band through their explorations. Rounding off the band is the nicely audible and percussive bass of Mikko Nurmi, and the jazzy percussion of Tatu Henttonen. as musicians, these guys really succeed at making their improvisations passionate. However, the album does struggle to keep one's attention for that very fact; very little here sounds thoughtfully composed. With the exception of general directions the band follows, and a few recurring guitar ideas, each song generally takes the same laid-back, solo-heavy approach.

For a psychedelic jam trio, things can get fairly heavy, in terms of distortion and tone. The way the band plays is usually laid-back, but the tone of the guitar especially reminds me often of Robert Fripp, from King Crimson. While I am not too fond of the direction that Kaarna takes with 'Spring', I do find myself particularly endeared to the production, which is excellent with the style in mind. Things do not sound mechanical as many studio recordings do, but rather organic; the musicians tend to play off of each other quite a bit. Especially during the live portion of the album, one can really hear the chemistry between the band members. I have no doubt that those who adhere themselves to more improvised styles of music than I do will have no problem finding something to love here. 'Spring' is a good album, but it can tend to get a bit too indulgent at times.

Report this review (#437285)
Posted Thursday, April 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
3 stars Looking at the previous reviews and at the classification in the psychedelic/space rock section I was expecting something different, but what I have found is very good. There are heavy moments alternated to that kind of quietness that leaves you "careful". The first thing that jumps to my mind is Liquid from the dutch 35007, but also Ozric Tentacles, King Crimson, Kayo Dot and Xing Sa.

This means that the music in this album is very original. I'm not sure about the space rock label, they could stay in Crossover, RIO, Post-Rock or JR/F

The album contains seven instrumental songs (or batter six as one is present in studio and live versions) mainly based on guitar, but on which the guitar is never too invasive. The track #5 (Song) is the perfect example. There's a lot of clean jazzy guitar but the band works really as an ensemble. If it was for this track only I would invite the band to Montreaux, that's also the title of the following track.

A good album, a bit challenging maybe, but full of jazz and experimentations and most of all ensemble's improvisation, that's the thing that makes the jazz different from any other genre.. It's very promising and surely above the three stars that I'm about to give it.

Looking forward for their next album, I strongly suggest this one to all the non-easy listeners.

Report this review (#485286)
Posted Monday, July 18, 2011 | Review Permalink

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