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This is the first album I heard from Finns Jumalhämärä, and I'm not sure whether or not had I heard their earlier works first, this change in style would've have made complete sense, or none whatsoever. The experimental black metal of their past is completely absent, no abstract, psychedelic screeches to the occult are to be found here, Resitaali is an album consisting of thirty five minutes of organ drone. There's neither a devolution into a blackened metal fury, electronics based noise nightmare nor complimentary ambient textures. It's just a whole release of church organ droning away for half an hour. And it's fantastic.
You will know immediately within the first minute whether or not you are going to enjoy the rest of the album. If you don't feel the energy of the dense sound of the organ tone as the first chord drones away then you won't get any enjoyment out of the rest. But if you love the unique sound of this wonderful and much underused instrument then it's a great album to delve into. Simple minor-chord sequences repeat through I, creating a lovely relaxed atmosphere with the high pitched notes, and when matched with the lower timbre of the deeper octaves that join it later in the track, the gorgeous sound of the tones reverberating away makes for a great calming atmosphere. It's even more minimalist than most traditional organ based music played in churches, there's no spiritual religious connection to be found here, it's simply an appreciation for the sounds of a fantastic instrument - but with the grandiose and evocative sound it's no wonder that the instrument is a staple of Christian church services dating back hundreds of years.
The second piece presents more of the same pleasant sounding tone worship, while III and IV provide a change. The third piece is much darker, based in a lower tone deep and dark tones drone away with little melodic sense while some more shrill high pitched tones juxtapose themselves in a more sinister and brooding piece from the album. They make use of the full range of the organ's range, IV's emphasis of the lowest end of the keyboard makes for a really dense sound as the same low tone reverberates for the first chord with a real heaviness, before brightening up a third of the way in and returning to some of the same simple, pleasant melodic structures heard on the first two pieces.
One more for the drone and ambient fans than those from the black metal spectrum regardless of Jumalhämärä's origins, Resitaali is a very minimalist but gorgeous album, a tribute to the sonic textures and drones that can be wrung out of the evocative organ.
Originally written for swirlsofnoise.com
I must have had a lot of money four or so years ago, because I'm forever finding vinyls tucked away here or there that I don't remember ordering. This is probably one of the stranger ones, though, but it's right up my alley, so, uh, kudos to 2012 Caspian for having enough disposable income to order a bunch of eccentric LPs.
30 seconds of this on youtube/soulseek will be more than enough to tell you whether this is worth your time or not. Long, contemplative pipe organ drones. No other instruments, no Hecker-style laptop destruction, just pristine, melancholic drones that stretch on and on. Personally I quite like it; I had the privilege of having a go on a pipe organ in the Oldenburg cathedral in Germany, and this isn't too different from the simple minor key phrases that I awkwardly noodled out on that grand old instrument.
Kinda need to emphasise here that we're talking about 4 long tracks of rather simple organ figures and drones. With a lot of minimalist drone there's a tendency for things to forever veer into "Emperor's new clothes" territory, and I don't suppose this is any different; whereby I find an series of evocative, masterfully played pieces on Resitaali, another will find this to be a snooze filled shitheap. That's fine though. For me, this recording successfully captures many of the great things about the pipe organ, and is very evocative on a personal level. The dense overtones, the grand, slowly unfolding sequence; it's all extremely sacred. As a youth I went to a bunch of particularly modern churches where the music resembled rock music watered down to homeopathic levels , and as an adult I've really been enjoying returning to older service styles where roots run deep and where things are more laden with meaning. Here that latter style is pretty well captured. (Although it would certainly be an interesting listen- a finn experimental black band writing a bunch of tunes in the contemporary christian style!).
It's certainly mood music, though, and likely some of the sparsest music I've got a physical copy of. Sure, it's hard to make a pipe organ sound small, but nothing here's hugely Wagnerian or anything. Just soft, sad chords for days. Well worth looking into though, and a pretty good accompaniment to that one time a year when I actually want to read some Augustine.
When intoning Jumalhämärä's name aloud in ignorant English, it really sounds like something you might step in and/or get stuck in. Amusingly, that could not be a more fitting comparison for the Finns' unorthodox, unexpected twist on the conservative black metal formulae that they obviously took a left turn from some time ago. But even having been apprised of the band's tactics on their excellent 2010 full-length Resignaatio, I would not have been prepared for the shocking turn they've taken on their latest material. For, you see, Resitaali is not even remotely metallic by any definition of the...alright, the harmonium pump organ on which it was performed does involve some metal components, but this represents a reduction of aesthetics, a spiritual departure and a minimalist stamp of experimentation that seems left field even taking into account how bizarre the Finns had come across on the older releases...
There's not a lot involved here in terms of compositional complexity or challenge, and thus there's not a lot to say other than this is the sort of recording anyone who has visited a church service in the past 200 years can likely relate to. This isn't some grandiose orchestration of pipe organ, but the tones emitted capture a similar sense of smooth consistency and manifestation of immediate nostalgia. Having personally been pressured by family to attend a Protestant church/Sunday School until my early teens, at which point I proudly, defiantly rejected Confirmation and marched home in my denim Hell Awaits vest through the rain, even I felt the solemn stir of memory here. Of being seated in lacquered wooden pews, listening to the timbres woven through the organ that would herald the oncoming service and score the hymnals. Truth be told, the actual setting and soundtrack to that chapter in my life were never the problem. I think they were both beautiful, generating an atavistic bond between myself and my largely religious ancestors...I just never personally approved or agreed with the message. But ultimately, what I'm saying here is that Jumalhämärä are generating that gorgeous, steady seriousness of the instrument without the requisite piety and boredom.
To be fair, some might view this as an unnecessary source of ennui, but those individuals will largely fall under the category of those that don't share this fond sense of recollection. Unlike Burzum's latest ambient piece Sôl austan, Mâni vestan, a disappointingly dull spin on 80s New Age minimalism, Resitaali seems to draw itself from a richer tapestry of interlocking humanity. I reviewed this from the cassette promo sent to me through Ahdistuksen Aihio Productions, rather than the digital files, which I promptly popped into this old Sylvania radio/tape/record player combo; lit a pair of candles and just studied the slow flicker of the flames while I absorbed the four tracks and 35 minutes. There is some degree of variation in how each is set up, with some sequences proving more desolate, barren and monotonous than others which seem to scale through the vaulted ceilings of the perceived worship-place that might have inspired it. I was actually quite surprised to hear the instrument sink into the more brooding, dissonant construction of track "III", but it did wonders to help establish the wider mood, a broader sojourn for the listener's emotional response.
There are limitations, obviously. Jumalhämärä haven't added any cinematic string sections of dubstep drops (hey, there's an idea?!?) to spice this up. This is a devotional to an instrument we rarely here out of its normal cultural context, and the unusual percussion and creepy black metal aesthetics are entirely vacant. In general there will be one strong harmony persisting through a piece, while tinier melodies drift off peripherally, until the more solemn, single 'chord' sequences that resonate unto dust and nothingness. Within these limitations, though, Resitaali is ultimately successful because, despite the lack of multiple instruments, new and often unexpected patterns do arise over the four tunes. Don't get me wrong: this is 100%, meditative mood music. If you're not into organs, this is unlikely to change your mind. I doubt it would function as a score to your weekend Civil War Reenactment or BMX Rally (actually, strike those, it might ironically work just as well in either situation), but if you set up the proper cerebral controls, this is a sublime, environmental work which actually feels like a complete journey, with a proper beginning and end and very little maudlin meandering throughout. Even the cover is pretty fascinating: why the bird? And why does the chair have only three legs? I may never know, but the sounds of this organ ensure that I want to.