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Keijo - Whose Dream We Live In?

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Artist: Keijo

Album: Whose Dream We Live In?

Label: Fire Museum

Review date: Apr. 2, 2008

A Keijo album is always a disorienting experience. One can never be sure what mode he’ll be in. Electronic primitivist? Loose-limbed psych-guitarist? Seasoned blues-hound? Multi-cultural researcher? He approaches music-making from such varied perspectives and records so often, that he could release albums every month and they would all be different. For the latest entry in Keijo Virtanen’s sprawling discography, the Finnish writer/traveler/motorcyclist/musical adventurer has gone it alone, taking turns here on synthesizer, drums, percussion and his main instrument, the guitar.

All of the material here has the air of the informal, intuitive jam, yet there’s a focus to the whole that can’t be denied. Previous solo efforts have often come off as more hermetic; this one is more illusory, as Virtanen multi-tracked himself into sounding like a live band.

Credit for this focus should also be given to the curatorial wisdom of Fire Museum, who most likely selected these tracks from a host of pieces provided by Virtanen. Two themes are prevalent: Keijo the bluesman and the cosmic-daze/gaze of Sun Ra’s Arkestra. These aspects are usually ever-present in Keijo’s music, but on these 11 pieces they are especially acute.

The Ra period most echoed here are the Moog jams from the mid-1960s collected on Atlantis. “Living in the Forest” would challenge the faculties of even some Ra experts, so close and complete is the effect. All the hallmarks – the mid-tempo trance percussion, wobbling moog-bass, even the random background noise – are all present. On “Landing Here,” a shambling drum pulse shores up a rickety synth-and-guitar dialogue that grows eerily infectious on repeated listenings.

Keijo’s guitar, blues-informed at nearly every turn, is at the center of all these pieces. On “Dog’s Dream” and “Never Been There,” Keijo spins melancholy themes. Both pieces could, with a little more work, end up as full-fledged songs, so strong is their underlying structure. On the acoustic “Cup of Juice” and its electric cousin “Under the Stars,” Keijo also shows how the blues form can induce almost meditative states.

A piece like “Jump” ties the album’s two themes together. It’s a cosmic-fried version of Chicago Blues. The rhythmic strut and moaning guitar is familiar, but with a big buzzing synth-line standing in for bass guitar, it feels odd. When combined with Keijo’s unstable shuffle on the drums, an otherworldly aura is evoked.

Whose Dream We Live In? succeeds because Keijo doesn’t try to push the material in any specific direction. He sits in grooves and riffs until they become well worn-in. But he also adds sly twists, like the dog lapping water on “For What to Wait,” or the accordion pulse on “When We’ll Meet.”

It’s refreshing to hear the restraint, insistence, and simplicity that permeate these jams. When Keijo loosens the reins, like on the clattering, dissonant title track, the effect is more startling than any high-volume freak-out. This music insinuates rather than blows your ears out, the product of one man listening to himself and then following what arises.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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