Ever since the 1970s, when Kraftwerk celebrated Die Mensch-Maschine and live percussionists played over disco tracks at the Paradise Garage, the interface between organic and synthetic has been a central thrill of electronic dance music.
Carrying forward this tradition with a jazz accent are trumpeter/electronics wizard Aki Himanen and drummer Aleksi Kinnunen, who last year debuted with the mostly-ambient Scapes featuring saxophonist Tapani Rinne.
This follow-up EP is more rhythm-oriented and upbeat, while still moody and atmospheric. Opener Dawn Drops sounds repetitious at first, but headphones reveal complex polyrhythms, syncopated handclaps and rim-rattling drums over its basic machine beat, with heavily treated trumpets zooming around above.
The 10-minute Plastic Rain is more engaging, with the spotlight on acoustic live drums and natural, breathy trumpet, as a throbbing electronic bassline provides a sturdy trampoline to bounce off.
The other two tracks are remixes, with Munich producer Polygonia (Lindsey Wang) offering a dark, mysteriously inviting rework of Dawn Drops. With gentle pad sounds and spacey whooshes suggesting old sci-fi films, this rewards careful listening but also works as pleasant background music, fulfilling the old definition of ambient.
A clubby remix of Plastic Rain by Spanish producer PEG adds juicy details and more tension but overpowers the original instrumentation with a deep techno beat. This interim release is clearly ready for post-pandemic parties – and who isn’t?
AKI HIMANEN / ALEKSI KINNUNEN: Dawn Drops