This one came out a few months ago and I would have missed it completely were it not from Ferenc's review in The Continental Magazine. If you have it, read that. This Finnish stuff always tends to sneak by!
Pekka Laine is no stranger to surf music, being a member of Sultans of Jungle and The Hypnomen. The Hypnomen's surf records are fantastic, but years ago they added vocals and went in a psych direction. When that sort of thing happens you can only just shrug and think "that's allowed."
Now, I would not say this is a return to surf, or even to where instrumental Hypnomen left off. The album cover itself evokes a reissue of a forgotten 60's guitarist in a less-exposed nation, like something Sublime Frequencies would put out. Though I think that's a better place to start from than surf, this is not trying to masquerade as a vintage treasure, either. The sound is impeccably modern, the hi-est of fi, and feels unbridled in its scope of influence. When these songs want to shine brightly, they do it blindingly, with passionate melodies and layers upon layers, but sometimes you have airy, echoey, ambient bits that stitch the album together into a very cohesive listen. There are bits of surf in there, but not quite as expected -- for instance there's some very drippy guitar on "Lullaby", but it's probably the least prominent of three guitars on the track. And though there are SO many other instruments involved, it's absolutely a guitar record, prominent enough to feel like an alien mothership drifting over and eclipsing whatever environments it visits. I often think of The Barbwires' Searider, but that record was dead-set on being a surf record. This feels like a similar magnitude, but with the propulsive surf energy instead flowering outwards like plumes of clouds.
Let's just talk about some individual moments, because they can be breathtaking. At the moment my favorite track is likely "L'ender des Cannibales", built around a dead-simple riff that can bristle you with emotion. That riff is all it really needs, but there are harpsichord bits that remind me of non-Western Italian soundtracks, and intergalactic anomolous fluctuations that really bring it to its own place.
edit: It's been pointed out that this is a cover of the theme to the movie Cannibal Holocaust, originally by Riz Ortoliani. Still a great take on it, and I feel pretty cool for hearing Italian composer influence.
This is followed by a power track "The Silent Star", also with a great riff, but with a lot of other things going on, shooting off like fireworks. What I especially love is as the song heads towards its close, pulling out all the stops with xylophone, piano and all these flourishes that make it sound all the sweeter, there's also a bitey bass growl, mixing dark with light. It's a knockout.
The first half of the album is a little more earthy, with dusty tracks like "Deja Vu" and "Wild Mountain Thyme" full of acoustic guitar played with locomotive oomph. As it starts to get a little more spacey in the latter half, I think it's important to note that the songs that aren't plainly ambient are still very melodically motivated -- this doesn't feel like a spacey jam, but rather an attempt to fill out the feeling these melodies evoke with as much detail as the medium can allow. This culminates in "Enchanted", more of a lullaby track than the track named as such. Slow, swinging, twinkling, and fading. Those Italian soundtrack moments pop in again too. It's a great ending, the sort that makes the room feel dead silent once it's over. And begs you to play it all again.