Tuesday, August 29, 2006

grey is the way

harmaa - 'airut:aamujen'

released: december 2004

songs: 1.saapuminen 2.seitsensarvi 3.lävitseni kaikkeen 4.luopumisen laulu 5.kuvajainen 6.oikea sointi 7.kahluu 8.hiensynty 9.läheltä

Harmaa (which, in Finnish, means 'Grey') is an offshot of the better known Finnish band Tenhi. In fact, 'Airut:aamujen' is the follow-up to a saga first started on a Tenhi record, 'Airut:ciwi'. Therefore, the music is not a million miles away from The tenhi sound, the contemplative, quiet melancholy being the prevalent norm in these compositions.

However, Harmaa strips that whole sound to its bare minimum. The 9 songs on this record are a sparse tapestry of piano as the main composition vehicle, accompanied by soft acoustic guitars, vocals and percussion. Unlike Tenhi, the guitars are mainly used for texture, while the vocals (apart from the wonderful male/female duet 'Luopumisen Laulu', the only half-upbeat song of the record) are mostly neutral and monotone, like an emotion-less version of Michael Gira. They fit the music perfectly, because they seem to blend into the background and become just another part of the nature that envelops these sounds.

That is the main merit of this record, the way it makes you feel in the middle of a white Finnish forest, overlooking a frozen lake and pondering life. Ambiance is the word, and in that aspect the record is a very tight package, not only musically but also in the lyrics (in Finnish, but with translations provided) and the sublime artwork.

Despite some minor pace changes, like the more dramatic 'Seitsensarvi' or the gorgeously beautiful 'Oikea Sointi', most of 'Airut:aamujen' follows the same thread, and unless you're in a particular kind of mood, your attention might start to wander.

If you are in that kind of contemplative mood, though, it's an extremely rewarding record with the capacity to drawn you in and lose you among its subtle, fragile beauty.

the good: beautiful sparse compositions, an enveloping experience
the bad: requires undivided attention and a particular mood, might be too monotonous otherwise


  1. Sounds nice. I find Dead Can Dance is similar, more mood (setting) music. If you're not in the right frame of mind it could be rather boring. I may have to give them a try, depending on availibilty. Canada is not the most acsessible for import music.

  2. yeah, good comparison, this is close to the more sombre dead can dance records, like 'within the realm of a dying sun'.

    and try ebay for the rarities, i find mostly all i want there that i can't find anywhere else.