Es, Islaja - AIU - a Caravan of Raw Sound Magic (September 08 UK tour)
This amazing compilation features a selection of recordings taken from the "Approximately Infinite Universe" tour put together by Diogenes and the No-Fi label back in 2008, featuring exclusive material from ES, Fursaxa and Islaja (in a very special lineup that includes the wonderful Samara Lubelski and Blevin Blectum). The set opens with a heart-stopping 21 minute session from Es & Fursaxa, channelling vapours of chamber music through the carnival of layered organs that have become the trademark of Sami Sanpakkila's Es project, underpinned by a kind of effortless line in sound manipulation that highlights the alien qualities of the material without ever allowing you to forget that you're listening to a thing of considerable magnificence and beauty. The remaining four tracks are supplied by Islaja featuring Samara Lubelski and Blevin Blectum, the first of which, "A Prayer" quietly tiptoes into life with a delicate swathe of quietly dramatic synths and strings, the eventual vocal sounding almost like a religious incantation with all the otherworldly mysticism of the Norwegian landscape thrown into the mix. It's a wonderful, mesmerising experience. "Juniper" is a much more poppy affair, with a plastic beatbox filtered through a hazy arrangement of scuzzy guitars and psychedelic vocals that any followers of Islaja's recorded output will know and love. "The Wanderer's Song" ends the set with Samara Lubelski's instantly recognisable guitar shimmering alongside Merja Kokkonen haunting vocal. There's an almost Proggy quality to the recording, but the quiet interjections of Bevin Blectum's electronic manipulations imbue proceedings with an intangible quality, mixing elements that on paper just shouldn't work but which somehow deliver a magical blend of sounds designed to soothe and disturb in equal measure. A truly magnificent collection and one worthy of your immediate attention.
Collaborations are a hard thing to call, even harder when it's in a live and mostly improvised environment, but occasionally they can emerge as greater than the sum of their parts. Approximately Infinite Universe was a proposed tour-based meeting between Finland and the USA, taking artists from each country and dropping them into the heady world of live collaboration. Here we find edited highlights from some of the tour's conspirators -- Es (in collaboration with the marvelous Fursaxa) and Islaja (backed by Samara Lubelski and Blevin Blechdom). First up is Es, the ever-reliable moniker of Fonal label boss Sami Sanpakkila, and his trademark electronic loops and drones are aptly accompanied by Tara Burke's inspiring vocal wails. The two artists seem perfectly suited to each other and the collaboration is a resounding success; where one could have easily overshadowed the other, they seem to listen carefully to each other, ending up with a coherent, enveloping and ultimately beautiful twenty minutes of music. Islaja's contribution is probably less improvised as she performs 'songs' rather than a single piece, but the inclusion of Samara Lubelski on guitar and Blevin Blechdom on electronics gives an upbeat pulse to her haunting music. Merja's vocals at times shimmer through poppy, glitch-heavy electronics from Blechdom and while they might drift far from the forest-dwelling folk she made her name crafting, these beefed-up versions are joyful and hugely enjoyable. More than a live album then, this record is a document of a tour that brought together two countries and might never happen again.
- John Twells (OtherMusic)
Download Album (DIOG2DD)
Es & Fursaxa - Alchemilla
Islaja feat. Blevin Blectum & Samara Lubelski - A Prayer
Islaja feat. Blevin Blectum & Samara Lubelski - Pete
Islaja feat. Blevin Blectum & Samara Lubelski - Juniper
Islaja feat. Blevin Blectum & Samara Lubelski - The Wanderer's Song