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AALTO

Prog Folk • Finland


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Aalto biography
The ethnic fusion orchestra AALTO locates in city of Tampere, and was formed in year 2006. In their tonal art they merge Tuvan throat singing, Indian sitar contemplations, Scandinavian folk dronings and vintange rock trio basis as their own sound, flavored with both African and Near-East details and warm personal touch. Their musical richness and convincing approach is guaranteed by the players academic background on ethnic music, and the group's various musical elements have matured as unique musical language of their own during the years. Compositions are mostly of their own writing, enrichened with few arrangements from traditional songs.

Their first EP was released in 2008 through Italian Center of Wood Records, and first full lenght CD by Finnish Uulu Records in 2012. At that year the personnel were Sampo Salonen (throat singing, didgerdoo, doshpuluur, percussion), Petra Tikkanen (vocals, zither), Antero Mentu (guitar, sitar), Panu Ukkonen (clarinet, bass clarinet), Marko Niittymäki (banjo, mandolin, vocals) and Aleksi Rintala (drums, percussion).

When listening the songs on their latest record at the time of writing, their group name AALTO (Wave) appears to describe quite well their songs; Built from quite few melodic and rhythmic themes, rolling like a wave through delicate arrangements, vivid charming sonic details and surfing upon hypnotic hippie trance dynamics. The lyrics are both in Finnish and what I believe being Tuvan language, sung by both fragile female voice and contrasted by more harsher male throat voices. Recommendable music for those interested of serene global music installations and raga rock vibes.


Discography:
2008 "Aalto" CD-EP (Center of Wood Records)
2012 "Tuulilabyrintit" CD (Uulu records)
2014 "Ikaro" CD (Uulu records)


Eetu Pellonpää 2012/2014


Sources:
http://etnoaalto.blogspot.fi
www.uulu.fi
www.facebook.com/etnoaalto
www.myspace.com/etnoaalto

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AALTO discography


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

4.00 | 1 ratings
Tuulilabyrintit
2012
3.78 | 9 ratings
Ikaro
2014

AALTO Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

AALTO Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

AALTO Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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

4.00 | 1 ratings
Aalto
2008

AALTO Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Ikaro by AALTO album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.78 | 9 ratings

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Ikaro
Aalto Prog Folk

Review by BrufordFreak

4 stars Prog Folk coming out of Finland. The blending of what sounds like Arabian and Indian instruments with the gut-stringed instruments and shamanic voices native to Finland, plus Didgeridoo, banjo, a kind of zither/autoharp, reed instruments, and "Tibetan" or "Tuvan" (or Sami? or some other Siberian tribe's) vocal overtone singing make this more of a blending of ancient and sacred intercontinental indigenous traditions. Coming from North America, I am biased in that I think I am hearing First American rhythms and vocals, too--especially songs like the album's opener, "Ikaro" (8:12) (8/10). The second song, "Vapathaja" (7:30) (9/10) presents with a jazzy Eastern European/klezmer sound. Sultry female lead vocalist, Petra Poutanen, the delicate acoustic stringed instruments, along with the virtuosic clarinet performance give it a bit more of an international flavor. Sitar-, doshpuluur- and mandolin- dominated "Heijestumia" (5:19) (9/10) has quite a fun minstrel/troubadour feel to it, though is quite Indian-sounding. The "Tuvan" throat singing adds a mystical quality to the song's feel. 4. "Kastepiesaroita" (4:16) and 5. "Kastepiesaroita II" (5:23) present as an ethereal pair of Eastern-spiced meditative songs. The first is dominated by an effluent, hypnotic female voice singing as if trying to lull the listener into a trance or some receptive state. Part II continues the hypnosis using only instruments. (8/10) "Sateentuoksuisia Unia" (4:55) is for me one of the albums high points. Beautiful melodies, almost a Cassandra Wilson feel to the banjo, baritone guitar, didgeridoo and hand drum foundation with some great vocals, lead and harmonies, throughout. (10/10)

7. "Metsätaloushöömei" (6:26) has quite a shamanic story-telling sound to it as male vocalist alternates between throat singing and pleasant tenor folk singing. The 'shout chorus' and female 'yodeling' take the song into even stranger territory. Ends like a front porch bluegrass jam straight out of the Ozarks! Not a song for the faint of heart! I like it! (8/10) The album's closer--and its longest song at 10:39--"Kuun Tytär" is its best. Opening with didgeridoo, subtle background strings sounds and harmonics all playing over the syncopated rhythms of a hand drum. At 1:28 a clarinet enters, claiming the melodic lead with repetition of its simple ascending note sequence. At 2:10 the etheric, delicate voice of Petra Poutanen again graces us with its present. I wish I could find the translation to the Finnish lyrics here because they must tell quite a powerful little story. The song is mesmerizingly beautiful and haunting in a very MEDIÆVAL BÆBES kind of way. (10/10)

Overall this is an interesting album of unusual and often beautiful, hypnotic, and joyful songs. I can't remember the last time I've ever come across such an eclectic blend of world instruments into the songs represented here. But it works! I have been listening to this album over and over for several weeks now and each listen only seems to deepen my immersion and enjoyment of them. I'm not sure this is a "masterpiece of progressive Folk music" but it is definitely worth checking out. If you're looking for something different, something out of the ordinary and entertaining, I would highly recommend that you check this one out.

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 Ikaro by AALTO album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.78 | 9 ratings

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Ikaro
Aalto Prog Folk

Review by Matti
Collaborator Neo-Prog Team

4 stars The ethno-oriented group AALTO from Tampere, Finland, has released their second album. Let's start by listing the instruments, because in this case it is very revealing: Marko Niittymäki plays mandolin, banjo, percussion, mandola and guitars, the only female member Petra Poutanen plays kantele, Antero Mentu plays guitar, sitar and tambura, Sampo Salonen didgeridoo, doshpulur and percussion, Panu Ukkonen clarinet, and finally Kusti Rintala plays drums and percussion.

All except Rintala also use their vocals. In some cases it's Tuvan throat singing! All in all Aalto's music has not much emphasis on vocals, in the traditional song sense. The band themselves speak of tying together ethnic music and prog-psychedelia. Some of the members have studied ethnomusicology and the influences from e.g. Tuva and Northern India are strong. However they wish to point out that "it's not self-poignant exotism but making beautiful and personal music with an unusually wide range of influences". I may not be the biggest fan of ethnic music and have never been, but I do sense that they make their music sincerely and with a real passion to what they do. That's very valuable indeed, and if the listener is open-minded enough, the music feels good.

I like the many, seldom heard colours in the sound. For example 'Kastepisaroita II' has a nice bright kantele playing among other ethnic intsruments, and the track builds up a hypnotic atmosphere in its repetitiveness. Petra's Finnish-language vocals on tracks such as 'Vapahtaja' and 'Sateentuoksuisia unia' (= "Rain-Odoured Dreams") adds the accessibility, and the lyrics seem to be full of poetic nature themes. Also her voice is beautiful. The title of the closing track (written by Antero Mentu who is the most productive composer in the group) means "The Daughter of Moon". It's ten minutes of calm and atmospheric beauty. The flowing clarinet brings even some jazzy flavour into it.

Of course this music is not necessarily "excellent addition to any prog rock music collection", being so far from rock in the first place, but in its own field it is very well made and pure music easy to surrender to. Hence four stars!

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 Tuulilabyrintit by AALTO album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Tuulilabyrintit
Aalto Prog Folk

Review by Eetu Pellonpää
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
4 stars For this first long player CD the group has been slightly reformed; Petra Tikkanen is introduced for singing and kantele playing, Marko Niittymäki evoking sounds with banjo, mandolin and dumpek-drum, and Aleksi Rintala sitting behind the drum set. The Finnish lyrics have moved further to realms of ancient traditional poetry, and wordless singing is also used pleasantly as a melodic supporter and deliverer of emotional dramatics for the songs.

Calmly waving guitar droning with hints of sitar and percussions open slightly the doors to the wind labyrinths on the title track. Fragile and tender vocals euphorically venture to the mysticism of the lyrics; A voice which also has an interesting range to more rustic throat vocals, which I first thought been sung by the groups guys only, but was revealed to the more interesting reality when observing the band performances on stage. This opening rejoices with great dynamics of both cosmic and earthly analogies, a meditative dharma in vein of classic sitar rock and world fusion music. Again the minimal composition rolls really calmly, and the soothing song maintains its integrity and internal favourability due precious solo moments.

"Dyngyldai" shows the more active characteristics of the group. This guitar led number with more audible rhythm section of the rock music reminded slightly the tones from Fairport Convention's "Unhalfbricking". Voices and clarinet supporting the beautifully weaved carpet of sounds. Both clean and throat sung voices join the fine roll upon the tides of sound waves textures. "Juuret" ("Roots") is then a real slow hazed bluesy run, with traditional Finnish vocals first forming dual harmonies, later clarinet joining to a celestial sequence of enlightenment, and having Hanna Rajakangas visiting on the singing. Following dual song entity could be transcribed as "Sparks"/"Flames", the first part "Kipinöitä" being Antero Mentu's authentic classical sitar raga meditation, leading directly to "Tulet", enchantingly pulsing drinking song with didgeridoo's and sitar's dialogues. The beat of the drum rhythms the tribal run around the pyroblazes, and oscillating vocals curve for getting higher along with the flames. Just adored this long instrumental fantasy's fine pause arrangements, repetition of the theme with reduced pace and it's climaxing to a fastened melody reprisals.

"Hyvät hevoset" spurs the fine horses into a gallop by fast guitar, winds, violins and Tuvan throat vocals, amplified guitar pouring in the rock fusion presence. The riders are unseated to the last musical innovation of the disc, "Intia". This hypnotic epic lasts over ten minutes, drawing together enchanting musical elements and the narrative voice of J.K. Ihalainen. The poet recites his tale summing together the universal aspects of the global culture present on the group's musical style, and also the personal experiences of a man of the modern time world. Lots of pleasant instrumental tapestry illuminates the yurt for this nocturnal drunken tale spinning ever more intense to the climax. Though the track is a quite interesting experimentation, it still did not completely fulfil the promises I personally anticipated as a conclusion for the dramatic curves of the fabulous album.

Overall, there is really much found from very simple song structures, and the tonal artistic explorations are not sounding neither boring nor artificially extended. The tender neo-hippie elements of this group are in my opinion totally charming, and I accepted the more rustic aggressive themes as contrasting factors, an understandable human turn sides of a coin, also being melted with time as smooth and relevant part to the group's own sound. There is much improvement from their earlier fine EP, the production now done through a Uulu label, an co-operative organization established by ethnomusicologists, musicians and professionals from various fields of cultural activities. So please accept my recommendations of this adorable Finnish ethnic music album, and would note them as an especial attraction from the local concert venues. At least for me the disc as good as ever could not match their midsummer spell from local hippie festivals.

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 Aalto by AALTO album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2008
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Aalto
Aalto Prog Folk

Review by Eetu Pellonpää
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
4 stars Luckily I managed to get a copy of the band's debut, as I understood the album starting to be endangered of extinction due sell-out of its small solitary edition. I approached first the historical tracks from the later part of the record, in order to gain some impressions of Sampo Salonen's original visions about music, from which the group with musicians later evolved. First one of these early songs starts from track six, being named "Vesipisaroita". These drops of water drip from gentle picks of acoustic guitar, and the serenity of slightly untrained vocals contemplating spiritual lyrics gives a flow to these sympathetic sounds, echoing with resemblances to Pekka Streng's themes and music. Beautiful, calming moment is followed by "Kova kehtolaulu", being a more raw droning with world music elements, natural soundscapes, violins and didgeridoos. This lullaby projected a vision of monolithic scenery, which still has a constant movement storming within the solid compositional structure.

The other tracks are related to birds by their names; "Lintu" opens with vocals, gently touched guitar strings, and later introduces drum harmony layers. Monotonic hypnotics dive to chambers echoing with deep bass vocals and tapestries weaved from charming guitar note webs. Achieved trance surges pleasantly with great dynamics and dramatic flow on melodies, the fine world music style associating with feelings I remembered from Sevara Nazarkhan's and Sheila Chandra's recordings. "Linnut takasin kotiin" calls the birds back home with guitars, wind-instruments and laidback jazzy pulsing, the evocated avifauna already calling from the background tapes. Mesmeric voices and the persistence of sonic flow radiate both feelings of pleasant safeness and estranged foreignness.

The first five tracks on the album are newer recordings, having Panu Ukkonen on clarinet, Mikael Heikkilä doing percussions, Antero Mentu on both sitar and guitar, and Johanna Rossi singing. "Intro" reveals that the group formation has matured the sound towards fusion of wider diversity of ethnic musical directions. Throat singing is more present as an integral element, contrasted with lady singer's vocals. Instrumentally the opener focuses to the charms of sitar, rainmaker tube and relentless repetitions of guitar chord runs. The simplicity of compositions has also been established, and the solution works well for the mutual jamming symbiosis and tender details, like the really pretty end sequence's silencing to the harmony of quiet bells and clarinet.

Didgeridoo blows announce the following song "Rajastan Pimp", having minor klezmer- oriented melody for sitar and clarinet. Vocals later join for the wordless praising of the Land of Kingdoms. This theme pauses after some four minutes cycling, and starts increasing pace as a dervish dance. "Vedenneito" is then a quite shamanistic song, starting with singing with ancient Finnish traditional appearing lyrics, other instruments slowly joining the calm prayer. The song dealing with water nymphs flows on one singular chord progression like a calm river, and the end maneuvers were arranged with my judgment very beautifully.

"Metsätaloushöömei" runs with faster guitar driven tune for throat singing, and sounded like a raw medieval drinking song to my ears. Though I didn't like this tune musically as much the others, I really appreciated the lyrics, which turn their focus towards Finnish forest industry managing issues, after first being settled down for the beer. It is understandable that people living global capitalistic realities have to get some income, but it is also sad that the exact national borders of Finland and Russia are visible from space-taken satellite's photographs due systematic harvesting of vast wildernesses as tree fields for paper industry. Luckily there are yet national parks in the country, and environmental issues are also gaining popularity as the nature around starts to turn as [&*!#], and the bubbles of capitalistic dreams start to burst. The last song with the first full band line-up concludes to "Päivän Poika", an euphoric trancer applying the full scale of group's instrumental colour. For me this was one of the most powerful tracks on the album, allowing traditional Finnish vocal recitals unite to global grooves of beautifulness.

I believe this album offers a soothing trip to global myths with a homey cozy feeling for the Finns, and as generally an incense flavored trip of hippie mediation for anybody. A really charming band, and though I think this hand crafted pretty CD starts to be out of stock, I would point it as a recommendable purchase if found with reasonable price. Kudos to Centre of Wood for realizing the potential value of this material in spite of the foreign singing language - not a factor affecting the listening enjoyment I dare to claim.

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Thanks to Eetu Pellonpää for the artist addition.

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