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Kemialliset Ystävät - Varisevien Tanssi / Silmujen Marssi

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Artist: Kemialliset Ystävät

Album: Varisevien Tanssi / Silmujen Marssi

Label: Kevyt Nostalgia

Review date: Mar. 1, 2004

Like a lot of the lately lauded "free folk" ensembles, Finland's Kemialliset Ystävät embrace vagueness as a virtue, sketching out hypnotic, hazy hymns with the same sleepy grace of the farm animals they sometimes sample. But, despite the meditative, meandering melodies, theirs is not a tired sound, nor do they let their shadowy atmospherics lapse into pure abstraction. For, as is writ on certain bumper stickers, not all who wander are lost.

And, at this point, the Ystävät gang are indeed seasoned wanderers. Since 1995, in fact, Jan Anderzen – K.Y.'s king, who moonlights in the Fonal Records scene with Avarus and others – has been orchestrating his dream team of flutists, pluckers, percussionists, and general mystics to conjure whispering symphonies of creaking earth and crying skies with a fragile ambience that sounds as ancient as it does effortless. Of course, part of their antiquity has to do with the muffled and misshaped menagerie of instruments they favor, like guitars rotted with rust, frost-frozen old organs, and a percussive section reminiscent of someone rummaging through a musty, dusty attic.

As best befits such a cluttered collective, Kemialliset Ystävät (Finnish for "Chemical Friends") have left a messy, sprawling discography in their wake, littered with lo-fi split 7”s and obscure compilation contributions. Thus it comes as a saintly gesture of archival upkeep that fledgling Finnish label Kevyt Nostalgia saw fit to compile two of their limited-edition and long gone CD-R's – Varisevien Tanssi (2001) and Silmujen Marssi (2002) – on to one concise slab of artful, available vinyl. The music, naturally, does not disappoint.

Varisevien Tanssi fades into the foreground with a distant train whistling before retreating into their familiar and forlorn Finnish forest-folk. Isolated, cold, and communing 'round a quiet campfire, the Kemialliset crew coax their plaintive, swaying songs to life slowly, vocals only floating up into the mix as a ghostly chorus of wind-swept, midnight mourning. Sonically, this is the winter of their discontent.

Silmujen Marssi treads similar terrain, but is no less mysterious or mesmerizing. The broken, guitar-driven drones still plod like tired travelers far from home while the icy, silent woods breathe with ominous woodwinds and strange strings. Even when Kemialliset do kick out the rare flare of flanging keyboards, it doesn't disturb the piety of their primal prayers. Because, hermetically speaking, this is hardcore.

By Britt Brown

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