Monday, January 16, 2012

Syven – Aikaintaite

There are a number of ways people use to “get back to nature”. Some grab some camping gear and pitch a tent in the middle of a forest for a few days. Some strap on a back pack and hike amongst the indigenous flora and fauna. And some, well . . . some commune in the great outdoors by themselves or a very small group and strum the kantele and chant to the stars. The latter example may be a little on the extreme side of things or a overly simplistic explanation of what Syven are all about, but sometimes it’s best to dumb things down for the masses to make a subject more understandable. That’s not to say that the average Waverider needs anything simplified, but this writer kinda’ does. This is me with a shovel digging myself deeper. On to the record!

Syven’s Aikaintaite album is a grandiose, spectacular, epic journey into the backlands of one’s mind and all set to tribal thrum of primordial rhythms and chants. The music is anchored by the traditional Finnish string instrument called the kantele and supported by ambient waves of synths, thundering rhythms, the occasional electrical guitar, and all enhanced by a variety of vocalizations ranging from mournful wails, tribal chants, and guttural growls. Mix all of these wondrous sounds together and embrace a uniform sound as haunting as the wind howling through the trees of a forest and as serene as a crisp breeze across the surface of a mountain lake.

“Jaljet” is a mesmerizing, near twenty-minute journey into sonic exploration that mixes huge ambient swells complete with chirping birds and various sounds from woodland creatures, even a little trickling stream for good measure. The synths cast a drapery of weight over the entire landscape and the shamanistic vocals chants leave one feeling as if their witnessing the world come alive with the rising of the morning sun. The overall tone has a somber feel, but never depressive. More akin to realizing how inferior and mortal we are as a species in comparison to the grandness of Mother Nature. Around the four minute mark, the rhythms become a little heavier, the electric guitars a little louder, the guttural chants more ominous, and the plucking strings of the kantele more plaintive, ultimately, the music creates a vibe like the sound of the earth’s own heart pumping life into her subjects. Heady and intoxicating, the pulsating rhythms have a tribal intensity as if there’s a story within the tone of each drum beat. The dynamic breaks to this song keep it fresh and flowing, especially welcome is the serene sounds of the kantele between the crushing rhythms.

“Ne Jotka Selviavat Talvestamme” is another 18 minute-plus atmospheric sonic journey filled with dynamic breaks. Huge swells of vocals crooning and chants mixed with sheer walls of distorted guitars and the complex touches of the kantele. This stuff is truly amazing to get lost in. Like shifting desert sands, like windswept mountains, like the rolling ocean tides, like the cascading leaves of seasonal change, this music is in constant flux, yet rooted to the core themes, much like the sands and mountains and seas are rooted to the earth. Always challenging the listener to follow the musical path laid out in front of them, but simple enough to follow because the markers along said path are so clearly designated. It’s a beautiful song. A timeless song.

Aikaintaite is, in a word, gorgeous. The textures that Syven use to create the lush atmospheric passages is stuff of legend. Take patience in listening to this album, things don’t happen fast, but when that certain something hits you, it hiys you good and hard, and leaves a lasting impression. The album could easily fall into the New Age category because of its ambient and shamanistic chanting, and even the heavy guitar portions wouldn’t take away from that. The term bandied about these days is Neo-Folk and that seems to work as well as anything else. The album will appeal to you if you’re the type of person who likes ambient music, or if you like to get baked and walk through nature. In fact, next time I do a day hike or find myself in the mountains, I’ll probably spin this disc as I take a short breather. Then again, listening to nature’s own music is a soundtrack unto itself and I probably wouldn’t ruin that. Nonetheless, Aikaintaite is a brilliantly realized record and I’m thankful I took the time to listen to this one when it came across the promo wire.


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