Percussionist Minna Koskenlahti’s first solo album, Toinen/Other, is an utterly hypnotic experience. It challenges the listener to engage with thoughts and emotions.
Koskenlahti broadens the spectrum of percussion music with a variety of instrumental experiments. In addition to the deep sounds of the frame drum and Spanish tambore, she plays paper, plastic, metal, and so on, and all these nuances serve to sharpen the listener’s ears: the sounds are familiar yet alien. This, too, fits the theme of the album admirably, given that Koskenlahti addresses societal topics such as power, violence, colonialism and post-colonialism along with the sense of otherness, as the title indicates. The music is compelling enough in itself, but the quote from The cultural politics of emotion by cultural scholar Sara Ahmed on the album cover brings a quite special added dimension to the listening experience.
Listeners are given freedom to form their own images of the music composed and performed by Koskenlahti, because the only information we are given of the six tracks on the album are their striking, ambiguous titles. Sometimes the music proceeds with a strong pulse, while at other times the percussion simply suggests a soundscape giving space for listening – also to silence. Pauses, volume shifts and the variable durations of the tracks acquire special meaning in Koskenlahti’s music.
For myself, the music prompts images reflecting on the relentlessness of the military machine, the gentle and distressing beat of a human heart, the shadows of the mind, the clockwork precision required of a society geared to productivity and the anxiety that this induces. The listening experience is rewarding if demanding, topped off by the concluding track Viimeinen (Last), where Koskenlahti also plays the månmarkapipa,a folk flute made of wood, with a sound that comes across like the cleansing power of summer rain. How different will the next listener’s experience be, I wonder?
Minna Koskenlahti: Toinen/Other
Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi