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Kemialliset Ystävät - Lumottu karkkipurkki (Vapaa systeemi) / Kellari Juniversumi

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Artist: Kemialliset Ystävät

Album: Lumottu karkkipurkki (Vapaa systeemi) / Kellari Juniversumi

Label: Fonal

Review date: Sep. 11, 2005

Give a child blank paper and a box of crayons and she will fill it with cryptic scrawls. Give Kemialliset Ystävät’s Jan Anderzén blank tape and a cellar full of flea market instruments and he will fill it with his crowded sonic miniatures. Both the child’s drawings and Anderzén’s compositions refuse to bend to the expectations of grown-ups.

Anderzén, in his music and artwork, creates raw, child-like visions full of obsessive detail, bizarre juxtapositions and hypnotic structures, all qualities to be found on two Fonal re-issues of out-of-print Kemialliset Ystävät recordings.

Lumottu Karkkipurkki (Vapaa systeemi) was released in 1999 on the Huuhtomerkki cassette label and later as a double 7” by Campbell Kneale, while Kellari Juniversumi was a sold-out Fonal release from 2002. Sami Sänpäkkilä stepped in to make both more widely available, in the process allowing Anderzén to augment Kellari with 24-page booklet of his artwork.

The artwork and music dovetail into an illuminating whole. In his drawings - a rogue’s gallery of human and plant mutations rendered in colored pencil and pastel squares or creepy photo collages - blocks of primary color are jarred together aggressively, a visual counterpoint to the prism of wayward tones shining in his songs. Five pages of the booklet are devoted to vertical triptychs of mismatched heads, torsos and legs, an effect mirrored in the music’s pervasive dissonance. Rhythmic lines and backgrounds dominate the images, while his music overflows with ornamentation.

The struggle between background noise and song form stands as a hallmark of Anderzén 's output. The 14 songs on Kellari are the closest he has come to convention, as he feeds pianos and faltering harmonies into the stew. But the ambient decoration strangles his pre-natal songs, transforming them into still-born curiosa in a circus sideshow tent.

The stripped down string menageries that makes up the Vapaa systeemi series rarely breach the three-minute mark. Often they consist of a single melodic motif stated on wildly tuned guitars or a chorus of flutes. Oblivious to the thickets of hand percussion, shortwave static and queasy bass tones swirling about, the motif is stubbornly repeated. Such pieces are like swathes of fabric, rather than whole cloth, and they exist more as rich, decorative patterns to be enjoyed on a surface level.

Anderzén loosely based the demented squalls of Lumottu karkkipurkki on a Finnish children’s book of the same name (which translates as The Enchanted Candy Jar). In the story, the young protagonist Ville buys a jar full of colored candies, and upon eating them, he is transported to locales populated with surreal sights. The adventures, far from the hallucinations such a pill-popping premise suggest, cast Ville’s already familiar world in a new light. Kemialliset Ystävät works in a similar vein, presenting not an escapist vision, but bending the world as we know it into shapes that are sometimes sinister, sometimes whimsical, and always enchanting.

By Matthew Wuethrich

Other Reviews of Kemialliset Ystävät

Varisevien Tanssi / Silmujen Marssi



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