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Pymathon / Gentle Evil - Pymathon / Gentle Evil

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Artist: Pymathon / Gentle Evil

Album: Pymathon / Gentle Evil

Label: Verdura

Review date: Jun. 5, 2008

In December 2004, The Wire ran an article of mine that sketched the outlines of the Finnish underground. The article mapped not a scene but a sensibility – a raw, open-ended approach to music-making. “Forest-folk,” the unfortunate, catchall tag applied to most anything that spills out of Finland these days, fails to capture the reality of what musicians are up to here on the northern rim of Europe. For a more accurate and up-to-date picture of how the DIY/experimental currents in Finland are flowing, one should turn to this split 12” on Helsinki-based Verdura. The two heavyweight duos featured – Pymathon on the A-side, Gentle Evil on the flip – express all that is right and inspiring about what’s happening in the country’s small but thriving music community.

Pymathon is the duo of Topias Tiheäsalo and Jaakko Tolvi. Tiheäsalo, a classically trained guitarist with a very catholic vision of the instrument, plugs in and fires off salvo after salvo of skuzzy, distended riffs, cribbed from the annals of thrash metal and mutilated nearly beyond recognition by feedback. On the receiving end of this barrage is Tolvi, drummer/percussionist in ensembles such as Rauhan Orkesteri and Lauhkeat Lampaat, who fires back with bass drum bursts, cymbal explosions and sniper-fire snare. The music here is not so much a dialogue as a series of collisions.

The titles of the improvisations (“Fist Autopsy,” “Baptized by Lobotomy”) and the pseudonyms the duo takes (“Pholyp” plays “batterii” and “B.Östhof” plays “destral” – “axe” in Catalan) remind the listener to keep tongue in cheek. However, there are times when it feels like the two are maybe having too much fun, losing their way in the process. In this case a little more adherence to thrash-metal’s rhythmic imperative and a little less improv-groping could have resulted in a phenomenal side.

For Gentle Evil, dedication and focus is no problem. “In a Desolate Way” is a 17-minute study in decay and rupture. Again, dialogue isn’t the right descriptor here; this side is two titanic flows of sound grinding against each other. Drummer Janne Tuomi builds an unceasing rhythmic wave, and noise-sculptor Tommi Keränen counters with shards of feedback and chunks of dense, choked static. Both are nimble improvisers. Tuomi finds ways to add intricate details and stays away from any obvious power drumming, while Keränen twists his raw electronic tendrils with a deft sense of phrasing and space, a rare quality in a noise musician.

The Verdura label was charting underground Finnish weirdness already back in 1999. Its releases have tended toward heavier avant-rock, which makes it the perfect vehicle to transport these two feral animals. Both sides contain echoes of various extreme and improvised musics, but the players involved definitely don’t think in terms of genre. For them, metal, free jazz, improv, and noise are points on a continuum, one which they slide along freely. It’s messier this way, but also a lot more fun.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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