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Pekka Pohjola - Harakka Bialoipokku [Aka: B The Magpie] CD (album) cover


Pekka Pohjola


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.23 | 181 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars I celebrate here one of my first ventures into Finnish prog. Already quite familiar with a good swathe of Swedish prog groups and a number of Danish acts, I have been eager to explore the Finnish scene (with a number of Wigwam CDs in the mail as I write this). My, though, what a place to start!

This is an absolute gem, a rich jewel of instrumental music that should make any magpie dance about in a dust-raising, feathery fervor. As a base for comparison, what comes to mind, at least to these ears, is a meeting place of Camel and Frank Zappa. There is something here of Camel's slow, majestic build and sweep and unique mode of counterpoint, alongside Zappa's brand of orchestrated jazz, particularly the kind of elegant compositions found across "Uncle Meat," "Hot Rats" and "The Grand Wazoo" (there is a good reminiscence of Ian Underwood-styled hornwork especially). Which is to say that the jazz element here is of the meticulously- and melodiously-arranged variety rather than the angular squonking kind (if that stuff scares you away). I'd call the whole project a little more aggressive than Camel and perhaps a tad less avant-garde than FZ, but this doesn't make for a bland little pudding of moderation. No, I feel like Goldilocks. This seems, just right.

What I can't convey strongly enough (partly from lacking the musicological terminology) is the compositional maturity of the entire piece of music. It all begins with a solo piano movement and a slow, minimal chord progression that gradually gains momentum. On the subsequent pieces, a full group enters, introducing simple but elegant themes that accumulate subtly, and continue to develop in a way that strikes me as equal part classical and jazz, compositionally speaking. And, gosh, it's all just so darn pretty.

While Part 5 ("Bialoipokku's War" in English) has some heavy use of phasing that firmly locks the recording in some swishy aural 1970s, for the most part this material is played and recorded with a simplicity and dynamic energy that avoids some of the era's worst ego-noodling. The playing throughout serves the needs of the composition. Curiously refreshing.

I won't summarize the story of Bialoipokku the magpie that is laid out in the liner notes, but I will say that the story is suitably more of a quaint tale than harrowing saga, more Tove Jansson than Kalevala, but like Jansson's glorious tales, Moomin and otherwise, Pohjola's album offers up a nuanced and moving experience in the guise of its playful little magpie.

At this point I prefer this to Pohjola's next recording, "Keesojen Lehto" ("The Mathematician's Air Display"), but give me time. I might be back.

Highly recommended.

questionsneverknown | 4/5 |


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