Plain Ride: Strange Trial
(Ektro Records EKTRO-43)

From Aural Innovations #37 (Sep 2007)

This is the second album by Circle/Pharaoh Overlord guitarist Janne Westerlund and definitely beats the Plain Ride debut although that wasn’t bad at all in itself. In addition to Janne (vocals, guitar) the album features Pekka Jääskeläinen (bass), Julius Jääskeläinen (guitar, keyboards) and Juho Viljanen (drums, trombone) and special guests Harri Granath (piano and keyboards) and Sami Vironen (harp). The album was produced by the legendary Jürgen Hendlmeier who has done an excellent job. The overall sound is still acoustic-driven, but occasionally the band rocks hard in a more electric way, as well. On their MySpace site the band describes their music as Americana/Folk Rock/Psychedelic.

The first cut on the album ”Exposed to Light” begins in a pretty way with acoustic guitar that is joined by a relaxed ¾ drum comp spiced with piano etc. This pretty nice song also has some harp and it sort of brings to mind Leonard Cohen a bit. “Dying Sun” has more of a kraut rock spirit in it and is hypnotic, although quite acoustic. This is a really great song that later on rocks freely. One of the best tracks on the CD is the very well rocking “Guiding Light” that also has some kraut influences. The more peaceful “Hurricane #2” is a totally okay track as well, this time in 6/4 time signature. The beautiful, mostly acoustic “Leave Behind, Leave Behind” is more on the sunny side and has some nice guitar soloing and trombone. The repetitive and hypnotic “Laughter & Chaos” is up-beat acoustic rock. The title track of the album starts off with piano and vocals that are soon joined by acoustic guitar. At around the one and a half-minute marker the bass and light drums make an entrance into this pleasant, ballad-like composition. “Huricane #3” is rather fast stuff with quite energetic guitar playing; a cheery, great and yet again a bit kraut-oriented track. I really like the exciting “Sanches” that progresses in 7/8 time and has an excellent fuzz solo. The album is finished with the laid-back and beautiful “Satellites or Stars” that has acoustic guitars, bass and vocals and later on also trombone. Strange Dial is in every aspect a very successful and enjoyable album and I’m sure it will grow on you even more with time. Way to go, Janne and friends!

For more info and please visit the band’s MySpace page at:

Reviewed by Santtu Laakso

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