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Eclectic Prog • Finland

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XL biography
XL was formed in Helsinki in 1992. The band members are Arttu Takalo (midivibes, sequencer), Jarmo Saari (guitar, sampler), Tuure Koski (bass) and Tomi Salesvuo (drums, percussion). They are all renowned jazz musicians in Finland, and they all graduated at Sibelius academy (which is where they probably met each other, since they are all 1969 to 1972 generation). After a while Dj. Bunuel joined the band, taking care of sound effects, widening XL's sonic palette even further.

Compositions are of Takalo-Saari tandem. Their music is interesting mix of Finnish ethnical themes in contemporary forms, adding modern jazz, rock, electronic grooves, making XL's music really enjoyable and eclectic.

They managed to release five studio albums and a live one before disbanding in 2004. Band members are now involved in various musical projects.


XLent* (1995, Ondine Octopus OCTO 404-2; out of print)
Jukola (Rockadillo / Pohjola Records 1998)
Jeti (Rockadillo / Pohjola Records 1999)
Live ballet (Rockadillo / Pohjola Records 2001)
Surreal (Rockadillo / Pohjola Records 2002)
Visual (Rockadillo / Pohjola Records 2003)

Moris Mateljan, 2009.

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XL discography

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XL top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
3.00 | 2 ratings
3.50 | 2 ratings
3.95 | 2 ratings
4.00 | 4 ratings

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Live Ballet

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Cinematic Fantasies - The Best of XL

XL Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

XL Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 Surreal by XL album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.95 | 2 ratings

XL Eclectic Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Sadly I'm still the only reviewer for this highly original Finnish group that came from the jazz circles and broke all barriers with their [mostly] instrumental music. XL was active from 1992 to 2004, and its two main composers, guitarist Jarmo Saari and vibes player Arttu Takalo have both made albums of their own and been respected studio and live musicians for a wide variety of artists.

Surreal is XL's fourth studio album. The line-up had seen the addition of Dj. Bunuel on voice and sound effects. Compared to the earlier albums, the band's eclectic expression has become much edgier and more unpredictable. The funnily titled opening track 'PlimPlomLePetitBonBon' is relatively calm and full of magical atmosphere. The vibes are upfront for the moody melodies and "The XL Orchestra" (consisting of a string quartet, double bass, clarinet, French horns and harps) enriches the soundscape with elegant details. There's also a female voice speaking in French here and there. Fast-paced 'Sir Real' features rather heavy riffs and intense playing. Mix Penguin Cafe Orchestra with Led Zeppelin and you might get some faint idea.

'Surreal' has pulsating electronica-like elements reminiscent of artists like J-M. Jarre, Air or Stereolab, but in the end it is unmistakable XL. 'Evil Spirit' has a threatening atmosphere underlined by Dj. Bunuel's low voice. Interesting details in the sound, but the beat is a bit too strong for my taste. 'The Dark Lord' is mostly unenjoyably hectic and noisy, but the more melodic sections are fascinating. One could imagine 'Oktober' to be an art rock song in which vocals have been replaced by vibes. 'Elohopeaa' means quicksilver in Finnish, and the extremely fast track is indeed all over the place. Frank Zappa would nod his head!

The ride has been so wild this far that it's nice to have a bit calmer piece: 'Avanto' has a psychedelic groove reminding slightly of Ozric Tentacles. There are voice samples in Finnish that sound like being from a priest's sermon -- perhaps from some old film? 'PlimPlom II' is the first track one really could describe as peaceful and soothing. The leading instruments are two harps. Beautiful. After that sonic oasis we're again kidnapped into the nocturnal, murky side streets where a low-voiced man speaks in English. The ending piece 'YouAndTheStarsAndTheMusic' (sic) is gorgeous, perhaps slightly sentimental in its cinematic nature. All in all Surreal is one hell of an album, extremely risk-taking, varied and dynamic, and yet surprisingly coherent. If there were less of the noisiest and edgiest elements that I was a bit uncomfortable listening to, I might think of giving a full rating. A prog listener with ears wide open probably finds a lot to appreciate here, but (s)he may also feel the music occasionally to be too clever for its own good. Definitely not recommended as a cosy background listening!

 Jukola by XL album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.00 | 2 ratings

XL Eclectic Prog

Review by 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!

Thanks to clarke2001 for the artist addition.

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