After Keijo's fantastic debut last year on Lal Lal Lal, I was beyond excited when I heard Antony Milton's fantastic Pseudo Arcana label would be releasing a double CD-R of this brilliant Finn's material. I have no idea how to describe the soundscapes that Keijo creates; they are massive, and unlike anything I've heard before. Most striking, perhaps, is the density of each piece; there's so much going on here that getting lost is not simply a possibility, it is a certainty. Over the course of this double album (which lasts an hour and thirty minutes), the listener takes a journey through the arctic depths of northern Finland to the sweaty grime of downtown Bombay. It's like following a great traveler through the epic adventures of his life.
Technically, I think this is supposed to be two separate albums, put together as a double release. I'm not totally sure, but they fit together perfectly. There is so much music here that I would seriously advise setting aside some time to ingest it completely. Something like this deserves to be more than background music for something else you're doing. From beginning to end, this is more like an art exhibit than an album; it's so picturesque that I feel like Keijo should be selling prints of these songs. The opener, "From Here On," lays down the red carpet that the rest of this work will follow. Using a variety of bells and synthesizers to create a windy landscape, it feels like being perched on a metal cage inside enormous cumulous clouds. Suspended in mid-air, activity swarms around you. Each clang acts like some mysterious living creature trying to escape. Thankfully the cage isn't budging, and eventually it just gives up and goes back to sleep. This is beautiful and subtly dramatic at the same time.
If one thing stands out more than others on Keijo's work, it's his effective use of chimes, bells, and cymbals. He even uses metal blades and plates. He is a master of metallic percussion. Many artists who dabble in the world of drone and experimental music use these types of instrumentation as well, but I don't think I've ever heard them incorporated as well as Keijo does. Their impact is more substantial than one might think. For instance, on tracks like "Once Again this Time" and "Soon Onto the Other Side," the percussive elements are integral. On the former, crashing cymbals hint at chaos under the surface while a singular bell attempts to give the listener a focal point. Some kind of stringed instrument (I think it is the 2-string listed in the liner notes) provides an excellent contrast to the wheezing electronic drones taking place underneath. It has a backwoods feeling that is excellent. It's like some worldly businessman being stuck in the arctic wilderness of Finland during winter. There is this harsh, threatening exterior all around, but he will not let down his guard and refuses to give up. The bell remains his focus, while the 2-string is his imagination staying in a warm place. I love this piece.
"Soon Onto the Other Side" uses the scraping of rotating metal blade for a post-apocalyptic feel. I take away a lot of things from this track, but most of all it gives me this image of a group of people in hiding in a world destroyed by nuclear bombs. Someone or something is searching for them, and they have no means to fight back. The only thing left to do is hide in an underground tunnel, once used for water drainage, and hope they are not discovered. This song feels cold and desolate; the word 'hope' no longer has meaning. It slides seamlessly into the final track on the record, "Already Here Around." Keijo continues with this theme, though the added acoustic guitar makes it seem like it is days later and everyone is still in hiding. Hunger pangs are starting to set in and they know they can't survive much longer. If the enemy cannot find them, starvation will. These two pieces perfectly complement each other; it's absolutely brilliant.
Heartbreaking beauty is the key element in "The Second Sunset." I feel like I'm seeing the sun go down after the worst day of my life. Even though it may be the most beautiful sunset I've ever witnessed, it appears ugly. The beauty of this moment is clouded by the hopeless despair inside. It's like being in a moment that should be totally wonderful, but because of circumstances, it's the most awful thing imaginable. Keijo illustrates this well. The cold, harsh reality of "The Second Sunset" is offset by "Almost Untold." This is one of the few pieces centered around an acoustic guitar, and it has a distinctly Indian feel to it. It slowly meanders along the banks of the Ganges on its way to Calcutta. As booming floor toms come in to accent the jagged cymbal work, I feel like someone seeing a bustling city for the first time. It's overwhelming and I'm not sure what to think. I am terrified and excited at the same time. If this was a movie, as this song comes to an end, the camera would remain stationary, focused on the main character as he makes his first descent into the city. The credits would roll and everyone would be left satisfied.
On Keijo's first two releases, he's made one hell of an impression. His compositions are heavy on percussion, but that doesn't make them as sterile as one would think. These pieces are bubbling with life; they are full of warm textures and lively imagery. Like the historical epic that surpasses expectations, "Unfolding Emptiness" & "Decomposing Dawn and Dew" are better than anything I could have anticipated from this Finnish wunderkind. It takes a lot of talent to put out over an hour and a half of music that doesn't put the listener to sleep. Even with my short attention span, I couldn't press stop; I had to know how this would end. And when it finally concluded, I was sad there wasn't more. Like any great film, you never want it to be over - you want the hero to live forever. With Keijo, though, satisfaction is guaranteed. 9/10 -- Brad Rose (25 May, 2005)