Since playing in genre-busting bands such as XL and ZetaBoo in the ‘90s, multi-instrumentalist Jarmo Saari has released half a dozen albums as a leader, while creating music for films, dance, big bands, orchestras and choirs.
Mainly using a guitar and an array of effects, he masterfully creates atmospheres and meticulous architecture – with a taste for bombastic melodrama.
On this second album backed by a trio of drummers, he also relies on the Taurus, a foot-operated analogue synthesizer favoured by ‘70s prog bands, as well as keyboards and samples. Counterbalancing all this technology is the warm, organic playing of three of Finland’s best drummer-percussionists.
Saari’s taste for melodrama is evident on a long track featuring Charlie Chaplin’s speech from The Dictator, which is admirable and stirring at first but begins to grate on further listens. So do his droning vocals on My Kinda Woman and eight-minute metallic solo on Saffron Tears.
More tantalizing are The Wunderers and Radio Mammalia, where shamanistic voices float over a mesh of exploratory guitar and percussion lines, suggesting the 1980s ‘fourth world music’ of Jon Hassell, Brian Eno and David Byrne.
On the two final tracks, emotional subtlety takes centre stage. Aura, the closing tribute to the late great percussionist Zarkus Poussa, is lyrical and poignant.
JARMO SAARI REPUBLIC: Soldiers of light
Jarmo Saari (guitars, vocals, taurus pedal, theremin, keyboards, trombone, percussion, viola da gamba, bass, samples, kantele, glass harp, chromaharp, omnichord)
Abdissa Assefa (drums, acoustic & electric percussion)
Sami Kuoppamäki (drums, percussion)
Olavi Louhivuori (drums, percussion)
feat. Saima Saari (vocals), Jukkis Kiviniemi (bass), Anna-Mari Kähärä (vocals)
Membran Music JSR02