Release Date: Sep 23, 2016
Record label: Edition
With an unusual lineup of guitar, cello, trombone, voices and electronics, a multi-genre sweep from rock and jazz to contemporary classical, and vocal/instrumental harmonies on singable themes that sometimes suggest a Nordic Pat Metheny group, Finnish quintet Oddarrang have sounded like a small lineup with big dreams since their emergence over a decade ago. Agartha, with its scientific and mythological undercurrents, takes the band closer to an orchestral and electronic-ambient sound, though often a hauntingly beautiful and still surprising one. The cinematic, keys-looping Aletheia turns unexpectedly clamorous and splintery, as if glass fragments are falling through its soft sound-clouds, while the contrasting Central Sun drives the formidable Olavi Louhivuori’s hip-hoppish backbeat through a fast-bowed cello chord before brass, vocals and clangy guitar lines arrive.
There’s a moment, almost exactly nine minutes into ‘Telos/Agartha’ – track five on Agartha, the fourth album from Finland’s Oddarrang – when, for perhaps the first time, the whole thing truly takes off. It’s as if the preceding 36 minutes, as vital and full of guile and craft as they have been, have been building for this moment of crashing, gauzy guitar and brass-laden abandon. Moments of genuine euphoria in contemporary music are disconcertingly rare, but this is one such.
A quick look at the history of Oddarrang shows that back in 2007 they were awarded Jazz Album of The Year in Norway, and that they also put in a good account of themselves at London’s 2012 Jazz Festival. All of which would lead to the obvious conclusion that Odderrang are almost certainly one of the leading lights in the contemporary jazz scene, not just in their homeland, but perhaps globally too. Spend a little time in the company of Agartha and it becomes clear that this is not a band that operates solely within a single musical field.
Post rock aficionados will find in Oddarrang’s latest album, Agartha, a commingling of familiar and off-center qualities. The Finnish band have a foot in the jazz world – a Jazz Album of the Year award in their native country in 2007, a highly regarded appearance at the London Jazz Festival in 2012 – but their other foot stands on the same vast terrain occupied by Sigur Rós, Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai and the like. Its five members include a guitarist, bassist and drummer, your standard rock instruments, but also a trombonist and cellist.