Various Artists
Veli, sisko, kuulet kumman soiton: Avanto Compilation 2004
Avanto
2004
C



the Avanto Festival is held each November in Helsinki, Finland. It features experimental musicians, filmmakers, and artists from all over the world (though with an obvious preference for Nordic artists). I've always wanted to go, as I have had a soft spot for Finnish electronic music ever since I first heard Pan Sonic. Each year, the festival organizers release a compilation CD highlighting the artists who perform in a given festival. As far as I know, the CD is available at the festival, and it is also available afterwards at various record stores in Europe and North America.

This year's CD is titled Veli, sisko, kuulet kumman soiton, and while I don't know nearly enough Finnish to translate this, I think it means "CD filled with a bunch of crazy electronic and experimental music that might or might not go together, depending on your mood as you're listening." If that's not the translation, then it should be, because that's what you'll get here. Instead of me summarizing this, however, let me just give you a blow-by-blow description of each song so you can judge for yourself.

Ian Helliwell's "May 2nd 2004, 3:30 am" sounds like an argument that turns violent, as overheard from a next-door neighbor's house. And, yes, it's as annoying as that situation sounds. "Sultans Theme" is a bit better-a rollicking Velvet Underground-like groove, and it segues into Goodiepal's "-_Mainpal Inv._Hitachi (live)," which is (for lack of a better word) a jig, complete with flutes and other bagpipey-type things. What these two songs are doing adjacent to an argument is hard to figure, though I suppose happy music and arguments have gone together for about eight hundred centuries (or since alcohol was invented).

Ohne's "Lieber Gott" is another animal entirely. Its sputtery, fizzy electronics sound like reworkings of the great Finnish electronic pioneer Erkki Kurenniemi. The hollow steel-pipe echo effect is particularly interesting on this piece, though I can't get over the juxtaposition of this work and the previous jig. But the end of the song answers my question: the digital noise transforms into a few snippets from what sounds like a German Oktoberfest ditty.

Aavikon kone ja moottori's "Karavaani" sounds like one of those subtle, esoteric Pan Sonic works, complete with repetition galore and tweeps. It's a song in static-repeating the same process over and over again for three minutes. It is followed by Aprox.'s "Elbow Knock (From Avanto with Love Remix)," which sounds like one of those noisy, beat-driven Pan Sonic tracks from early in their career-or a particularly derivative Kid606 track (think Kid606 trying to create a parody of Kid606 tracks). Next comes Astro Twin's "20041014," which is a bit like a non-beat driven version of the previous two tracks-very digital and fuzzy and squeaky, but no beat.

Next up: "Sama vanha sama jutto" by yet another artist I've never heard of (Kemialliset Ystävät ). This might actually be the find of the CD: a sprawling, elliptical tune that reminds me of a Tuvan throat-singing epic (only with a guitar and whistle instead of a throat). The song is a mixture of a bunch of different sounds and digital distortions, all of which coalesce into something unforgettable until the very end, when the various sounds all disengage from the groove and break into the scattered noise they started as.

This is followed by the ultra sine-wave grooves of Krzyzosiak Verhaverbeke's "The First." Yep, sine waves-loud ones. They rumble at times, so the song is not entirely static. There's a song like this on every Avanto compilation-something that lasts forever but annoys the hell out of me. Not much better (though less annoying) is Mikko Hynninen's "Klasma-teatteri," a slow, accelerating work that starts out like a steam engine dopplering towards you and then continues to build into wave after wave of rumbling noises. It's more interesting than the previous song, but it gets annoying, too.

And then there was "665,9F [Hot Like Hell]" by the first artist on this compilation that I've heard of, COH. This one's a treat, as is everything this Russian artist comes up with. Imagine thousands of tiny nanobots slowly clearing the earwax out of your ears and then drilling imperceptibly tiny holes into your eardrums. That's what you get here: hovering bodies, shimmering waves, and snappy stabs that all coalesce into a truly living, organic whole. And then…those various sounds turn into a cool beat that storms on until the plug is pulled. Fantastic.

Frankly, the remaining six songs on the disk can't match the high point that is COH's contribution, but they do have their moments. Cellule d'Intervention Metamkine's untitled work has some nice found sound collage noises (snapping and scraping and slurping, mostly), and these all come together in the end when they turn into some sort of machine sound that seems to be grinding and hammering away. So it's an interesting experimental track. The Leo Bugariloves's "Muukalainen" is a French industrial pop song (think Skinny Puppy with more sauce). Alec Empire (another familiar artist) then steps in with "Breakdown," which takes that found sound concept and turns it into an Aphex Twin retread. It basically sucks, as does the one-minute long noise fest "April 2004" by Mattin. The Belgradeyard Sound System's "Brush It! (live version)" takes John Zorn experimental jazz and transforms it into experimental electronic music realm. It's not successful (the jazz parts are muddled by the noise parts), but it an interesting experiment. Finally, Michaela Schwentner & Didi Bruckmayer's "Giuliana 64:03" ends the disk on a fuzzy note, as it takes what sounds like radio static and turns it into, well, radio static.

My overall assessment of this work is that it has its share of high points-the tracks by COH, Kemialliset Ystävät , and Goodiepal in particular-but more than its share of misses. I guess that's the story of nearly every art festival, though, isn't it? The good news is that the high points here are as good as any high points you're likely to find anywhere. If you are an obsessed fan of COH (and that should include every single one of you out there), then you might want to pick this up just for his performance alone.


Reviewed by: Michael Heumann
Reviewed on: 2005-04-04
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