Monday, August 30, 2010

Joonatan Elokuu - 'A Vagrant's Whim' (UTUPUU02, 2010)















Download from
http://kiiltomatolyhty.bandcamp.com/


We are happy to inform that 'A Vagrant's Whim', the new album by Joonatan Elokuu is now available! Those fluent in Finnish can order it via http://www.utupuu.fi (the site does not yet feature English language). English inquiries can be made by contacting info(nospam!!!at)utupuu.fi.

Tracks:

1. A Song Writ on Leaves
2. Rishikesh Song
3. Wicker Girl
4. Silk Road Sunrise
5. A Dream by the Arabian Sea
6. Montsegur
7. Born Again with a Hedgehog's Heart
8. Nancy
9. Valencia
10. Brother Sun
11. Like Christ and Osiris
12. Galilee

Playing time ~46 minutes.
Mastering by Mikko Määttä.

The CDr comes in a handmade, nature friendly packaging. The price is 8e (+2,40e postage).

The album is a collection of songs composed during various seaside drop-outs in India, France, Spain and Portugal (2008-2010) and finally recorded & finished once safely back home in Finland (...after a perilous journey through the Balkans & East Europe, including desperate hitchhiking and traveling with a French circus troupe...but that's another story, folks!)

The songs here are presented in a rather stripped-down and raw form; compared to the debut album 'Mushroom Heart' (2009), the instrumentation on 'A Vagrant's Whim' is much more dependant on just guitar & voice. Other instruments include cittern, harmonica, melodica, sitar, indian harmonium and portuguese guitar.

Released through Utupuu, limited to 300 hand numbered copies.

Phil McMullen from Terrascope wrote:

"Staying in Scandinavia, it was good to receive the latest full-length limited edition release from Finland’s Joonatan Elokuu, entitled “A Vagrant’s Whim”. For the most part this follows a simple formula of guitar and Elokuu’s soothingly soporific baritone, supplemented here and there by wife Helena on vocals and occasional other accompaniment. There’s not much to choose between the songs, all of which will delight in a lo-fi, late night, mellow sort of way. “Born Again with a Hedgehog Heart” features some sampled dialogue, possibly from a film (now that could be the quiz question this month), and “Nancy” continues with the spoken-word (Elokuu’s this time) while introducing some understated but evocative electronic backing, whilst “Like Christ and Osiris” features sitar and Indian Harmonium (and probably other things). Elokuu’s evidently an interesting and widely travelled chap with many a tale to tell, and this is all very pleasant and a fair enough if not quite essential contribution to the wyrd/alt/psych/whatever folk canon."

A short review from Psyche Van Het Folk:

"The second album by Joonatan Elokuu reminds me even more of In Gowan Ring, singing minstrel-like songs in his own modest way, with a warm introspective expressive way of singing with two acoustic guitars and accordion, and with the addition of some second female voice (Helena Halla) here and there. Only after a few songs different arrangements occur, like some flute with echo on “Silk Road Sunrise”. Special to hear also is the “Born Again with a Hedgehog's Heart” intro with a dialogue from a movie of someone seeking for birds/nature-like spiritual freedom. “Nancy” is expressed with more spoken word with warm ambient electric piano and synthesizer. More stretched in acoustic improvisation with harmonium, zither and sitar is “Like Christ and Osiris”. The last track concludes the album by adding whistling. Another good one from this new psych-folk artist. Released as a CDR in an envelope with some artwork."

Oscar Strik from Evening of Light wrote:

"After several years of building up steam as Aura Shining Green, it seems Joonatan Elokuu has recently settled into a relatively steady rhythm of writing and recording songs. Mushroom Heart was a very pleasant album from 2009, and this one, self-released in late 2010, is its equally fine successor.

Even more so than the last time around, travels form the inspiration for this collection of singer/songwriter folk pieces. The road took Joonatan and his wife Helena through Southern Europe and Asia, as we can see from titles like “Montségur”, “Valencia”, “Silk Road Sunrise”, and “Rishikesh Song”. This, however, hasn’t resulted in an overload of oriental and raga influences, as has been a fairly common occurrence in folk music since the 60s. Though certainly inspired by all kinds of vagaries from modern folk, guitar and voice dominate practically everywhere on these songs of Joonatan’s, and frankly, he needs little more to make perfectly enjoyable and intimate songs.

That’s not to say there isn’t some variety to be found. Melodies are executed with flair and diversity across the different tracks, and in some places intensities of arrangement highlight the flow of the music, such as in the rich “Wicker Girl”, where multiple guitar lines and additional vocals by Helena fill up the sound perfectly. At the other end, there is the ambient spoken word piece “Nancy”, a brooding track based on soft organ chords in the background, some use of samples, and introspective text. I wouldn’t have minded even more of these experimental sojourns, and perhaps it would have made the album more balanced and powerful.

As it stands, though, A Vagrant’s Whim is another nice album from a warm voice among the underground folk wanderers of today. Joonatan and Helena are on the move once more, but there are plans of rereleasing remastered version of the Utupuu albums in the future. Until then, the two have made all of their recent albums available as a free high-quality download on their website here, so there is no excuse for not checking their material out right now, and if you like what you hear, I’m sure they might have some physical copies available for sale."

Monday, January 4, 2010

Heathen Harvest Review

This CD-R, limited to 100 copies marks the debut work of solo folk artist Joonatan Elokuu, a man of Finnish origin shrouded in mystery. This CD-R documents the travels of this bard and poet into the British Isles, into India, and in social isolation in his native Finland. Apparently every song was recorded at different times in different locations, sometimes accompanied by his wife Helena, who occasionally accompanies him in his live performances.

This marks also the first release on his own family-run label Kiiltomatolyhty. Quite a nice website they have there, dedicated mostly to his own work. Hopefully it will grow in time with his own exposure and growth as an artist.

The music we are presented with is a relatively pure ode to British folk music, to nature, and to the nomad who wanders. The songs are kept very straightforward and in effect rely on strength of song and heartfelt melody to convey their individual beauty. There is a bit of neofolk-ish experimentation with extra synths and ambient/atmospheric effects that crop up here and there, mainly in the opening and closing tracks. However, most of the songs are kept pure, relying solidly on strength of song and emotion to carry them through, composed mostly on instruments such as acoustic guitar and accordion.

The vocal work of Joonatan is remarkably beautiful and pure in it’s melancholy and passion. I would guess these songs were composed or performed only while Joonatan was at his most emotional or spiritually inspired highs and lows, and the way he uses his own voice as an atmospheric instrument to visually convey these songs is moving indeed. At this album’s deepest moments, one is moved to tears and feels the same pain one would feel stranded and abandoned as a wanderer in a foreign land, without roots, without companionship, with only your music as company, and only music to tell your tale as a traveler lost.

We start off with some sweet a capella provided by Joonatan and his wife, as a traditional English folk song unfolds, telling the tale of a lonely Finnish immigrant, far from home and forced into captivity, with former riches now reduced to mere essentials of survival. As the song progresses into more environmental ambience, the song is followed by a mournful Eastern-reminiscent dirge on acoustic instruments, giving one the feel of wandering a desert, with no hint of an answer in sight. This next song is quite a jarring transition from the lonely to the wistful and sweet, and is definitely a tear-jerker for romantics. The heartbreaking melody and lyrics are most definitely suitable for a rainy afternoon, with a glass of wine, losing oneself in memory. If one has ever wandered the streets of an old English city in autumn, I also suggest they do so while listening to this song in their discman. Next, we go into a sad acoustic ballad sung in Finnish, with the sounds of a nearby river and night sounds of creatures stirring. This is a song to play around a fire at night, as the night slowly comes to life around you, and the ghosts of nature call you into their arms. Dark, passionate, full of native spirit.

The first well-known cover song comes next(if you don’t count the first song, based on a traditional folk song), this time of British 1960s folk rock artist Donovan, who could definitely be cited as an influence here. In fact, this whole release contains just a bit of Donovan’s wistful musings on the world today. That pure, natural feeling is definitely here in strength. From here, we go one more step into blues and country territory, though still not quite into rock territory as of yet, as Joonatan’s singing takes on more of a western swagger, and the acoustic strumming comes back with more vigor than before, playing out almost American-inspired melodies.

The next song ventures back into fragile ambience and natural beauty, as that ever-calming sound of water makes its return back into the soundscape of ringing chords to fill out this rather Dead Can Dance-inspired composition, fading back into a heartbreaking beautiful folk tune lulling us to tear-filled sleep. The next song is a more earthy folk song, reminiscent of a hermit singing an ode to his forest abode, beckoning the lone weary traveler to join him for awhile, and drink to the beauty of solitude. We go back into sad beauty for a bit, joined by a mournful harmonica, flute, and watery sounds for a final Finnish ballad before finally being taken into the high point of this album.

The conclusion is well worth the wait, a dark extended rendition of “Solomon’s Song” by British folk rock artist C.O.B. Quite a different take on Clive Palmer’s classic, extended into some more lonely singing in Finnish, for a deeply ambient lonely outro and ode to the loneliness and solitude as life reaches it’s final chapter, and as an old man you finally return to the womb of nature which spawned you. This is a song I often play and listen to while walking through the forest at night and lose myself in the beauty around me, as the beauty of this song is seriously overwhelming, and the sheer sadness of the artist’s tired voice almost makes you want to be lost yourself, to the infinite splendor of earth.

This is a definite recommendation for fans of pagan folk music, neofolk, psychedelic folk, or just plain good songwriting, and definitely music to play alone while out in the elements. Beautiful atmospheric music for the romantic hippie in us all. I would still like to see these songs developed further and more refined for a future release, but if this is any indication, I think we can expect great things from this artist.

link to review: http://www.heathenharvest.com/article.php?story=20091226145501287