The intersection of jazz and electronics has been a tantalising area for a decade or more. Machine sounds are no longer just flavouring but integral parts of many groups. Trumpeter Aki Himanen and drummer Aleksi Kinnunen take this up a notch on their first full-length album. Here machines are sparring partners, in effect additional band members that react to the organic instruments and parry back with their own input, creating a real dialogue.
Like the generative music pioneered by Brian Eno, this sonic landscape is constantly shifting and responding. And like Eno collaborator Jon Hassell, Himanen plays his trumpet through a mesh of electronics for an eerie, otherworldly sound. By contrast, guest saxophonist Tapani Rinne offers a more natural sound on Northern Web, though there’s plenty of electronic wizardry in his own group, RinneRadio. While this is one of the album’s calmest tracks – and Rinne has recently focused on quiet music for yoga and meditation – this album as a whole is no placid new age collection.
Between the calmer waters of Northern Web and Granules, there’s ferocious drumming on the 10-minute Metamorphosis and funky beats on Stream Interlude. Elsewhere there are dubby forays that bring to mind Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær and unsettling dark ambient akin to that of Finns Rasmus Hedlund and Timo Kaukolampi.
The centrepiece is an extended take on saxophonist Ornette Coleman’s 60-year-old classic ballad Lonely Woman. Himanen states the theme majestically and calmly, then expands on Don Cherry’s original cornet parts. Kinnunen’s drumming builds to a plateau of almost psychedelic-rock intensity before it all comes in for a perfect three-point landing. That leads into the cryptic closing piece, named after a square in Budapest and a street in Helsinki’s Kallio neighbourhood. Here muffled shouts and gentle street sounds add yet another human dimension to this intriguing mix.
AKI HIMANEN / ALEKSI KINNUNEN: Scapes I
Aki Himanen: Trumpet and machines
Aleksi Kinnunen: Drums and machines
Tapani Rinne: Tenor saxophone (track 4)
Super Life 900879 8323302, 2020