Ektroverde - "Music From The Film Futuro: A New Stance For Tomorrow"
Ektroverde - "Arpeggio" (Bad Vugum 1999, BAD-87CD)
Ektroverde - "Svart/Orange" (Fonal Records 1999, FR-10, 7" LP)
From Aural Innovations #8 (October 1999)
Jussi Lehtisalo is one busy fellow. If you recall from past issues, Ektroverde is a side project of Finnish band Circle and between the two, there has been a steady output of music. Ektroverde is the more electronic and oddly jazzy cousin to Circle's aggressive and unique brand of spacerock (though the band don't consider themselves spacerock). Here we feature three recent releases, two CD's and one 7".
We'll start with the Futuro soundtrack. The film is a documentary about Finnish architect Matti Suuronen's 1968 design of Futuro, a house made of plastic and resembling a flying saucer, a reflection of the era's belief in technology's possibilities for solving mankind's problems. There is detailed interesting information on Ektroverde's web site and I would encourage those of you with internet access to take a peak. I listened to Ektroverde's music while looking at images from the film, all very 60's prefab space age and very art deco in a spacey way. The music is electronic and moves seamlessly through numerous themes. Though dreamy in spots, the music is (quite intentionally I'm sure) also creatively mechanical, giving the feeling that the trade off for technology's benefits is rigidity. There are also instances of narration in Russian, Finnish, and some in English. In one the speaker describes his impressions of the Futuro house, and another discusses the benefits of fiberglass. But certainly the most telling quote is... "The flighted rotation ellipsoid is a space that is not surrounded by walls. It's surrounded by the endless space of your imagination. And for my work, fantasy is not enough. The art of the future is fantasy enriched with the results of science". It's all very well done and while the music stands well on its own merits, after having immersed myself in it while reading about the film I don't think I could listen to it without the film's images. I've got them too locked in together. But that's a good thing and I'd love to see Ektroverde take on more soundtrack projects.
Ektroverde's latest release, Arpeggio, is very much along the lines of last year's Pingvin, though I can't say I like it nearly as much. Of the six tracks the two that grabbed me the most were "Puuttuva" and "Taitaja". Puuttuva features a rapid repeating bassline and jazzy drums and piano accompanied by eerie spacey synth work. The contrast of the almost standard intense jazz work on the one hand and the sometimes intense spaced out atmosphere is difficult to describe, but the effect is gripping. Taitaja is like Puuttuva, but less jazzy and more synth freaky. I even hear bagpipe sounds in the background. This is the kind of stuff I liked on last year's Pingvin CD.
"Optoelektroniikkaa" has a bouncy but mechanical synth and percussion beat accompanied by a slow slightly psychedelic guitar line (is it guitar?). "Interpol" is similar to Puuttuva but lacks that song's adventure and intensity. On "Smetana" things get more interesting and even a little more like Circle though it maintains Ektroverde's jazzy feel, including engaging synth patterns that bring back the trademark Ektroverde jazz/space contrast. Finally, "Mtwara" is an interesting mixture of electric piano, organ, and heavy tribal rhythms.
On the Svart/Orange 7", Ektroverde seems to stray more overtly into psychedelia... well, their brand of it anyway. "Svart" unfortunately didn't grab me even with its trippy journeying guitars. "Orange" on the other hand, is a much better spacey psych tune played against the band's trademark of repeating patterns. Cool 60's organ and lots of cosmic synth work. Despite some of the weak spots, Ektroverde (like Circle) still manages to occupy their own stylistic niche in the spacerock and avant progressive realms. So far, however, my favorites are Pingvin and the Futuro soundtrack as both feature different sides of the band that make the two recordings a good pair for the uninitiated.
Click here to visit the very informative web page covering both Circle and related band Ektroverde. Click here to visit the more official page run by band leader Jussi Lehtisalo.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz