Sunday, July 12, 2009

When you inherit that insect collection... might want to think twice before you share it and the accompanying travel journals with the local prog/punk/metal/brass/klezmer band. Read the following true story and see why.

Remember when cds first came out and they were going to be indestructable? Like after nuclear warfare it was supposed to be the cockroaches and the cds left hanging around. WhatEVER. That myth didn't last long, did it?

So here I am looking sadly at my Alamaailman Vasarat - Huuro Kolkko disc that got about 2 plays on a real stereo with speakers before it got stuck in my car disc player and injured in the rescue attempt. Yeah, it's on the computer and I can burn another copy, but I guess I'm old school enough to be a little bummed. Sheesh. And the copy won't have the image of Huuro Kolkko's insect collection on it.

Guess it's a bit what happened to old Huuro Kolkko himself, he was somewhat damaged in the attempt. As the A.V. website explains "A Finnish explorer from the early 1900's, Huuro Kolkko was never recognized by his fellow scientists but nevertheless rambled many continents on his own without any official funding or promise of fame among public let alone his peers. During his travels, he made extensive studies of local cultures, drew maps of areas never visited by man and collected specimens of insects, flora and wild life....Sadly, Huuro Kolkko was lost somewhere in Morocco during the First World War, believed dead and gone. But his legacy will not be forgotten. "

So these crazy Finns who like to keep almost everything in the bass clef scored an album about various events they imagine took place in the explorer's life, based on what they read in his journals. Thus it's difficult to listen to the disc without imagining it as a film soundtrack. What's happening now to poor Kolkko now? What's going on in this tune here? Luckily the website provides a track by track guide from his first crazed dreams of exploring the world to his funeral afterparty. This is the first time I've been able to listen to the disc and read the liner notes simultaneously, and it's great fun to see if what I imagined was what the composers were thinking.

Not only do I love the concept, (who does concept albums like this?!) I totally love the tunes. Well, OK, the opening track is a little like heavy circus music, but get past that and it's a swashbuckling, swaggering soundtrack to adventure. I really don't know how these guys get all those low end instruments to sound so light-footed and frisky, but nobody else does it like they do. In anybody else's hands, two cellos, a trombone, a pump organ, and various saxes ranging from sopranino to the contra bass E flatTubax would plod and thud, but they never do here. In occasional forays into higher registers they actually play melody lines on their theremin, rather than just using it to make scary noises in the background the way most bands do.

This is wonderful, crazed, unclassifiable music. Should I let the band describe it? On their Myspace they comment,

"In the Alamaailman Vasarat music you can find traces of tango, klezmer, jazz, psychobilly, cabaret, circus music, new age, progressive avant-garde and heaviest of heavy metal. It is fairly typical to hear the band sail between creepy “Christmas-songs-for-the-poor”-type melancholic Finnish melodies and hot desert mirages of Ancient Persia. Journey might take you head-banging through the deepest mosh-pits of trashy dish factories of modern India, maybe ending up chilling out in a long-lost jazz dive of 20’s Harlem.
" For countless occasions, Alamaailman Vasarat have proved that old wood and brass can really beat the shiz out of any modern day instruments. It is just a matter of attitude and clever arrangements and compositions. But do not mistake the band to be just a master of Wall of Sound – it is just as important to play Silent. According to loyal fans, the most breath-taking moments are in fact those creepiest bars when the band plays so quiet and so petite you can almost hear the dead moaning six feet under! And when the distorted cellos kick in once again…
Since we're all writing about breaking down those "World Music" categorizations anyway here, I'll just tell you to listen for yourself at their MySpace. I recommend "Tujuhuju"(attempting to explore a haunted mountain) and "Lautturin Viivat"(at the funeral afterparty.)

One more weird A.V. tidbit. A few years ago they did a full length soundtrack to the 1932 film Vampyr and you can watch it in 10 minutes chunks on YouTube. This is pretty great, too, although fans of the film are hating it in the comment section.

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And in the "We have to be extra Minnesota nice to these guys" section, I was reading Watcha Clan's blog about their adventures in Chicago and Madison last weekend. Poor kids. Lost luggage in Chicago, kicked out of a hotel in Madison for smoking in their room and the event organizers there did not have the proper power converters so they didn't really get a sound check...seems like they had good shows nonetheless. They were also amazed at how many of the big cars they drove past had only one person in them.

Not to sound like John Kerry in 2004, but WE (as in the Cedar) CAN DO BETTER! I hope so anyway...since W.Clan is closing down Global Roots this fall for us on September 27.

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