It's already been four years since Nest's first full length album Woodsmoke, so this new piece of (literally) fabulous "naturewave" was eagerly expected by now. The time working on it has certainly paid off, as there are many factors which cause this album to rise above its predecessor. First, the basics, though. This album was again released by the Bulgarian Corvus Records, and again there is also a limited edition of 99 copies. That is the one I am treating in this review.
The main improvement over the previous album is the sound. A.T. has put a lot of work in refining the home-recording situation, and that has paid off. The sound of the Kantele, that typically Finnish string instrument, is richer than before, both when used clean and with effects. The same goes for the Lapland drum, which sounds both deep and clear. The greatest profit was made in the synthesizer department, though. The quality of the synths has improved immensely, and this time around, whether it's waves, flutes or horns, it all sounds marvellous. It is very rewarding to listen to this album with headphones, as only then does the album show its richness of sound, also because of the addition of many subtle effects and nature samples.
Another big difference with the previous album is the songwriting. Unlike earlier work, Trail of the Unwary contains almost only long tracks, and they are quite different in structure. "Moonbow" sets the tone for the album, with a gentle buildup and variation between two musical themes. Instead of condensing this into a four or five minute track, this is stretched out over a longer period. This makes the album more ambient most of the time, and perhaps less accessible and catchy. In any case, it requires a different mode of listening. "Kontio" is most like the older work, and my favourite track, though not because of that. It has a very gripping theme, excellent worked out in synth horn and kantele. The song is crowned by the wordless vocals of John Haughm (Agalloch), who is only one of several guest appearances. "Hunt" is quite an innovative track for Nest, being very long, and composed of calm melodic pieces and heavier outbursts, even including distorted kantele. "Across the Waters" starts with the spoken words of Laurie Ann Haus (Todesbonden), and it turns into a nice finishing track.
The aptly named Other CD contains a lot of extra material, that should be interesting both for long time fans and newbies. It starts off with "The Gallant Crow", a cover of a track by funeral doom legends Skepticism. Now Skepticism is one of those bands that is quite personal to me, and covers of such bands can be a bit tricky. However, this particular one is, in my opinion, quite brilliant. It combines the original heavy mood of the track with the subtle ambient moods so typical of Nest. The track is both faithful to the original, and innovative at the same time. Next up is "Last Vestige of Old Joy" from the split 10" with Agalloch, but without the Agalloch contributions to the track, which makes it a bit less interesting than the original. Then, as an extra, the Fabled Lore demo (1999) and Hidden Stream release are included on the CD. Nice for those who haven't procured a copy or download of those yet, as they show a more primitive but certainly not bad side of Nest's music. To top it off, the limited edition also contains a small glossy booklet with many of A. Tolonen's beautiful drawings, though sadly enough it doesn't include the lyrics booklet.
I haven't even mentioned the thematics, yet, which are as usual placed in the realm of animal tales and mysterious folklore. This review is getting way too long, however, so time to wrap up. This is a great release, that really shouldn't disappoint any serious Nest fan. The album itself would be deserving of an 8, because there is still room for improvement in the songwriting department, even though the sound is breathtaking. Nevertheless, the great extras and artwork push this one just a bit further. Recommended to all lovers of nature-inspired atmospheric music.
I must admit I had no knowledge of the existence of Corvus records. Actually, when I first picked up the record, I though it had some relation to the band Corvus Corax and was expecting some buoyant and epic sounding cd. To my surprise, as I popped the record into the portable player and started browsing through the internet, the begging was subtle, veiled, dark and powerful: an atmosphere charged with crisp energy in which suddenly a flute-like melody breaks in, transforming the ambience into a completely different thing. It becomes a very peculiar mixture of folk, ethnic, world music and darkness. All this achieved by only a few instruments, a Celtic-like percussion and the ever-there background atmosphere. 'Claw and Fang' has a more direct beginning, but maintains originally the same instruments we have heard in 'Moonbow': acoustic guitar work, floating ethnic wind-like sounds, a large and looming atmosphere. It captures perfectly that combustible atmosphere one can find in open spaces. When everything seems to stand still yet one can feel every movement more than ever: the crackling of a leaf, the perspectives in the shadows, the wind pushing the clouds. An acoustic guitar picks up all the tension and softly transforms it into a melody and song.
The band comes from Finland and has released previous works. On this occasion, they have collaborated with Laurie Ann Haus from Autumn Tears singing some female vocals, and the members of Agalloch play some ‘beautiful acoustics’ as defined by the press information.
'Kontio' has an enthralling melody that repeats itself with different energies. Again, it unites a folk spirit with a much more modern touch created by the duality in the melody: there is one main line of guitar in the spotlight and a darker, second line, in the background. The words come in as an order - a spoken powerful line that is answered by a chorus of voices that gently chant. It is perhaps one of the most effective songs of the record, even if only because its more compact than most. 'Hunt', as would be expected by its name, crashes in behind with an apocalyptic beginning that calms into a cryptic space where the lyrics find full protagonism. The sound of a hawk accompanies the entire song as the image of hunting, with the main theme being the sublimation of instincts, of nature and its cycles in a very objective and accepting way. There are some delicate moments in the song, perhaps they portray the inevitability of death the nature presents in one way or another?
Another thing that strikes as unique in this record are the words. There are obviously important, since they are printed on the glossy cover of the record. The cover is divided in two sides: one for the day and one for the night, portraying marks and shadows that could define different animals and plants. On each side the two or three lines that belong to each song are written, as an important reminder or as a chant. However, on the first listenings of the record, I got so immersed in the music itself that the words passed through my ears like a shadow. Many listenings later they started coming sharply into the spotlight sometimes begin understood, sometimes simply standing out as a dark chanting in the graver notes of each song. Hearing the record with the lyrics as the main character or not changes substantially the significance: it makes 'Trail of the Unwary' a more complex, mysterious and somber record. Where the music can fall into a worked out ethnic folk, the combination of music and words carries the record into a world of shadows and important inspiration.
'The Mire' picks up where 'Hunt' left off, also starting with a strong energetic percussion covered by a clear guitar melody. The song has a very defined pulse, keeping a sort of 'march' spirit that can't be found in the previous compositions. A distorted electric guitar appears in the middle, giving the song a torn and doleful feeling. Closing with a large atmospheric moment, 'The turning of the tides' almost starts unnoticed. With liquid sounds, some samplers and a large brooding atmosphere it is as if dawn were slowly awakening, shaking off the millions of happenings the night before have brought, that pass unaccounted to the eyes of most. However, the song slowly transforms into an elastic ritualistic composition - and it is the voice that manages this. When the guitar comes in, it brings a lighter feeling but the song remains fluctuating, sometimes darker, sometimes lighter, growing and transforming, adding a chanting and numerous sounds.
As a closing song comes 'Across the waters', perhaps the brightest song of the record, where the background atmosphere is luminous and the voices are female. Chord and wind unite, braiding a beautiful melody. It is taken slowly into a moment of elaborate silence that sways slowly until the guitar again picks up the melody, yet remains at a slower paced melody. Percussion also has its moment of spotlight, followed closely by the voice, to then move into a sublimation of all the instruments and another moment of almost-silence homaging the imminent end.
The record as a whole is not extremely varied in its sound or instrumentation, but it manages to pull the listener into numerous states, feelings and sensations. I have actually used this record as an escape for stressful situations at work: put on the earphones and move into a different dimension, a place of slow movement, of details, of shades - sometimes menacing, sometimes tranquil, but always captivating.
With a handful of less than successful attempts at "acoustic metal" populating the shelves in the past year, one might be forgiven for passing up yet another effort in favour of something a little more, well, reliable. That would be a mistake, because Nest's latest not only teaches Borknagar and Drudkh how it's done, but it's also one of the best acoustic metal CDs ever, easily rivalling Kveldssanger or the best of Empyrium.
The ambience emanating from Nest's music is really unlike any other band I've heard. Not sorrowful or oppressive, but fragile and enchanting. It does get dark at times, but the gloom is tempered by the warmth from the kantele (a kind of Finnish harp) and the deep, woody percussion. The music itself is quiet and peaceful, ancient even, but not in a merry elves-and-fairies-dancing-in the-forest kind of way. This is deadly serious and involving music, for the contemplative and meditative listener.
You might think this doesn't sound all that terribly thrilling, but I wouldn't hesitate to call this music exciting, because it's as action-packed as acoustic music can be. Fans of Nest's previous release, Woodsmoke, will note that this CD is much more diverse and unpredictable than its predecessor. The songs are much less straightforward - the melodies subtly fragment and the pieces move in different directions, sometimes recombining to form something entirely different. As a result, it's much easier to get lost in the music.
This time the songs are much less reliant on the kantele. Sometimes the background ambience takes over, sometimes percussion dominates. Keyboards and bass enter and exit when appropriate. Vocals are infrequent and almost inaudible, a deep rumbling echo which never distracts from the music's ambience. Chanting and female vocals also appear and one of the songs even features a menacing distorted guitar tone - something unexpected for Nest. The melodies aren't as catchy or recognisable this time around-but this isn't a complaint, it just means you need to listen a few more times to 'get' it.
Is this metal, you ask? It would be a hard task to argue it is, but it certainly puts me in the same spiritual state of mind. One of the great things about bands like Nest is they remind us forgetful metalheads that music doesn't need to be feature complex guitar patterns or advanced technical skill to have depth - sometimes less is more. As it stands this is the best acoustic metal I've heard for almost a decade. If you like Empyrium or any acoustic ambient at all, I recommend giving it a try.
I got this copy immediately when it was released - the simple reason was that the former album "Woodsmoke" (released in 2003) was so good that I could not wait. I am partial to this album since the main artist, mr. A. Tolonen, responsible for this magic album "Trail Of The Unwary" lives next to where I am originally from - but not in the way as you would think. Bragging in there is a big mistake and they do not think that much of anything that anybody achieves in the neighborhood - personally, I do not like that attitude and now I am telling everybody that this is a brilliant album in its originality. I have waited for some time to write this review - I have kind of held by breath in thinking what to say - it gets surprisingly difficult if you like the album and its concept from inside out.
The reason for knowing about this Nest was because of the American group called Agalloch - just brilliant "melodic black metal" group by the way - and joined projects with them and in special with their main ideologist and artist mr. Haughm. Here we go again ... I know this Nest because of the Americans appreciate this, otherwise I would not know about this, because nobody talks about this. My background since 70s is in progressive rock and with small amounts of metal ... the metal portion is slightly increasing since some of the Prog scene is changing to be very non-progressive and thus very boring. If we look back into the marvelous 70s British Prog scene and where it comes from, some of it could be extrapolated directly from Irish folk music - just the arrangements are slightly different and they utilize newer technology in creating the music. Now, in this century, when people really want to introduce something progressive the heads are turning into other Folk music directions. And I am happy to say that Finnish folk music is one of those golden treasures that is nowadays explored in rhythmic music - Nest being one of the brightest stars in there.
The opening track "Moonbow" introduces the backbone of this music: Lapland drums and the beautiful, strong sound from Kantele. Kantele is an ancient Finnish instrument, sometimes called in English as "Finnish zither", with 5-30 strings. Kantele is also used by Väinämöinen in the Finnish national epic Kalevala, published in the beginning of the 19th century and dating back to pre-written history. In all we are talking about very strong and different musical backgrounds compared to regular Western music, which as explained before, is mostly dating to old British Isles music. The Lapland drums are yet representing another culture, even other people, the Saami people from the northern parts of Finland and Scandinavia. The Saami people are not related to Finns and they have their own language along with a very different traditional culture.
The two tracks to follow "Claw and Fang" and "Kontio" tie this music to the themes of nature. Musically "Claw and Fang" represents traditional Finnish folk music themes so beautifully that it is almost impossible. When we come to think about folk themes, they date back in times of people gathered outside in front of a fire, being outside in general with the sounds of the nature, wind, birds or being inside with the sounds of the fireplace, fires to light up the interior and yet again the winds and storms echoing from outside. Nowadays, these themes are represented in silence with just a single instrument or with a few instruments - I think it is a misconception and I have never been able to really live with that - it all sounds so empty in contents. Now on this album, those themes are presented with all the background to understand the magnitude of the themes - metal influences are allowing the background to live, enhance and contradict with the main themes of Kantele. Also folk music without some sort of rhythmic devices, typically some kind of a drum, may be a good exception, but it shouldn't be anything else than an exception, I think, but unfortunately the drums have been a forgotten instrument in many folk music - not so in here - the Lapland drums are essential in this.
Talking about the nature and the environment is kind of fashionable these days - maybe you could omit the "kind of" from this but my skepticism arises with this, because I doubt that many people really understand the nature in its pure form. At least the Western culture with its biblical approach gives a screwed up interpretation of how the nature functions - for clarity: the modern culture in Finland is Western culture and people dependent only on that approach are as mistaken as anybody else. This album "Trail of the Unwary" deals with the hunters and the prey in the forest, how they really should be thought of - also backed up by our very own, single, modern science of the mankind - but not forgetting how nature seems beautiful to the human eye. On "Kontio" track you can virtually see a bear walking in the forest - if you cannot, just visit Nest Web Site to see it yourself in skillful drawings by mr. A. Tolonen - and in "The Hunt" you can understand how a bear hunts - kills other animals to survive. It is that simple, not that it wants to, not that it sometimes thinks not to, but simply because a bear hunts because it is a bear ... for an extended explanation of this you could read, perhaps any book by Richard Dawkins, but mostly I would recommend "The Ancestors Tale" as summary of everything. The biblical interpretation talks about some animals being evil and some good and all that kind of non-sense - not so in here. Do not be fooled by my comments on the beautiful nature - "The Hunt" is a very violent and raw black metal influenced song of 15 minutes. The waves of the hunt are getting in to you at regular intervals. Just when you thought that the hunt would calm down the drums begin to beat like your heart in the fury of adrenaline running into your veins, vision gets narrow in the chaos of going for the kill and the Kantele clings on top of the chaos with its powerful tone bringing shivers to your whole body - Kantele sounding more powerful than any acoustic guitar could ever be.
"Kontio" , The Bear, has great many names in the Finnish language - impossible to meaningfully translate to English. Kontio is the King of the Forest and respected as such. At the same time it is an enemy of the man when killing cattle, that people less than one hundred years ago needed for the basic survival - without them they would die during the winter. The attitude against The Bear is two-fold: honored for its skills but to be killed if the survival is dependent on that. The concept towards the nature does not get any more real than this. People at that time understood exactly what The Bear had to do to survive - they were struggling to hunt themselves during the winter to give the necessary food for the family - hunting was not that easy at that time.
And this is the backbone of this music in its themes - I would say that compared to a lot of the popular music today, even the modern progressive music, the difference is quite big. Some of the modern themes, even in prog, seem to be invented between the home and the bar and are basically just whining-stories with some clumsy pseudo-intelligence. Sometimes they are creating mysteries about things where there is no mystery if you put any sort of science into analyzing the story - they tell about just basic misconceptions. The influences of Metal in music, which is present with TOTU, are very welcome, because those audiences are demanding the music to be respectable, honest and real, which are also the virtues of real Prog music.
"Turning of the Tides" and "Across the Waters" bring in the atmospheric and ambient sound of this all. They work so well with the background interacting with the casual Kantele themes - it is that kind of music that you would never want to end - with the voices and background singing fitting in perfectly.
I did not just want to review this album and give my thoughts about it. I wanted to stress out the reasons why this is an enrichment to the rhythmic music world also in principle. The album has a great cultural background for its music and themes and it is very much up to date with its themes of nature. Nest is not the only band in Finland, nor in the northern countries pursuing similar folk-related, modern music with metal influences, which, I believe, is a good thing to these bands. Together they draw more attention to this kind of new wave of creative music, which I believe will become more popular in the coming years. You know, the mass-music pushed, almost violently, by the major record companies, is just becoming worse and worse by every year - perhaps not in Finland, but on the bigger markets it seems to be the trend. I am sure that the modern information technology will allow creative - read: meaningful - music to talk to people who really want to listen to their music. Nest may not be the only band in this, but it certainly has outputted one of the best albums of this business. It is highly recommended by me.
Out of Finland comes one of the most talented composers and instrumentally profoundest musicians in things Dark Ambient generally: Aslak Tolonen. As me intensively bewitching sound creations in such high creative goodness I did not hear myself next to the tone leader-treasures of Vinterriket and Elffor out of this area until now. Tolonen plays otherwise also yet in various Metal chapels. With its 1999 established artist project Nest he creates however pure nature association and emphasizes highly atmospheric Dark Ambient sounds of the absolutely beautiful-minded, immense sophisticated and above all mainly inevitable hypnotic sort. „Trail Of The Unwary“ is the second full album after the 2003 brightness-work „Woodsmoke”. Tolonen acquires, or better to say celebrates such raising song-material also here again with the electricity-organ on the one hand – as well as same weighted with traditional equipment: namely the lovely melodious Finnish Kantele. There and again this grandmaster accompanies including guest musicians on „Trail Of The Unwary“ its persistently charming sound spectrums with deep and mystical recitative – always then it becomes very especially mystical. While the musical-wise relatives of the group Tenhi for my taste acting but laudable independently, however being altogether a bit too interlock and to complexly, Tolonen is mastering the stylistic specification on its disks with endlessly much love to catchy and dreamy indulge-passages. And also in graphical manner this enormously capable and variable artist is very fit, as Tolonen proves with his selected pictures for the Nest disk-covers repeatedly – then also for „Trail Of The Unwary“ he generated a great moody drawing.
First of all, let me introduce you to the world of Nest by means of a little situation sketch.
On a sunny day, somewhere deep into the Finnish woods, there is a man sitting by the side of a small lake. In his hands a kantele, the traditional Finnish harp. And as he plays, we find ourselves soaring above the water, slowly drifting off towards new and unknown horizons. No human in sight, there is nothing but the tranquility of pure nature. Even the violent hunt of a lynx is still a peaceful thing in this dream.
This is the world Nest has been trying to convey as long as the band exists. Based upon the versatile yet always recognizable sound of the kantele, this music is meant to help you appreciate nature's beauty.
Trail of the Unwary is completely different from their first album, Woodsmoke. Where Woodsmoke was a lush record with nine average-length tracks, this effort is a good 20 minutes longer, while it has only seven songs. It is also darker and more mysterious than anything the band has made before.
Nest has only two permanent members: A. Tolonen (Shape of Despair) plays the fifteen-string kantele, while T. Saxell handles the bass and sparse vocals. On this record, though, there are a number of session musicians, most well-known of whom are John Haughm (Agalloch) and Laurie-Ann Haus (Todesbonden, Autumn Tears). Not that any of these people get an important role, but it's nice to see their names, what?
So, all of these people have connections with the metal scene. Does this mean Nest is metal too? Well, no. The most "metal" moment you'll find on this cd consists of the distorted kantele. Then what kind of music does this band play?
Basically, it can best be described as ambient folk, or something in that vein. As I said before, the sound is centered around the kantele (sometimes acoustic, sometimes distorted). Keyboards also play an important role, but more by means of creating a soundscape than real melodies. For the rest, there's a minimal use of drums and bass, and every now and then some mostly narrative vocals.
Even though all of the tracks are slow and mellow pieces, there is a lot of variation to be found throughout the album, which is something Woodsmoke lacked.
This effort sets out with the very slow and ambient start of Moonbow: only after 2:30 do we hear the first chords of the kantele. The track lasts over ten minutes, but it never bores. As with all songs on this album, intelligent compositions and variation in the use of instruments manages without any trouble to keep the listener's attention. It is as good as instrumental, with only a few lines of spoken words.
Claw and Fang also starts with some mellow soundscaping, but around 1:00 the kantele sets in once more. This time it sounds more like an acoustic guitar than a harp, which only shows how versatile the instrument is. The rest of the track switches between quiet ambience and sudden kantele outbursts, more violent than what we heard before. Again, the vocals consist merely of spoken or whispered words. And again, the eight-minute song passes by like a much shorter one as the listener is being carried away by what sounds like the essence of nature: "In death comes survival/in survival comes death"
The shortest song on the album (4:45) is Kontio, and it is more like anything Nest has done in the past, only it has a much richer sound than the tracks I know from Woodsmoke. It is also the most accessible part of the album, with drums taking a more prominent role than before. Highlight of the track (and indeed one of the highlights of the entire album) is the wordless chanting of John Haughm at the end of the song, which fits the music perfectly and adds another touch of melancholy to the already layered sound of Kontio. This track can also be downloaded from their homepage, for those interested.
Following the shortest song is the longest one. Hunt clocks in at over fifteen minutes, and this mammoth is also the most "extreme" track. At both the beginning and the end there are some distorted kantele assaults, which actually sound quite aggressive and threatening: we can feel the violence of the hunt, the smaller animal being gripped by the lynx' teeth. Once more, the whispered lyrics tell us about the essence of hunting:
"This is a life-long struggle for survival.
There's nothing glorious about it.
Nor is there hate, nor honour.
Such things have little meaning when the choice is between feeding and death.
And you know that is no choice at all."
Just before 8:00 it seems like the track is over, until the ever-present kantele comes again, through repeated background samples of a bird's cry. Soft samples play an important role throughout the entire song, but they never attract too much attention: the focus is always on the music.
The Mire sounds very pleasant, but it doesn't show anything we haven't heard before. A bit of a filler, if you ask me, until somewhere around 4:00, as the distortion sets in again. This is in a more gentle way than in the previous track, though: the kantele equivalent of Pink Floyd's dreamy guitar solo's.
Then on to something different. The Turning of the Tides is just that, a break from the sound on the rest of the album. The first part of this lengthy piece reminds me a lot of the minimalists of Koan. But where Koan has an industrial or mechanical sound, the musical soundscapes of Nest stay much more organic. In over half of the song, the kantele plays no role at all, practically everything is done with the keyboards here, and I must say, with a surprisingly good effect. In that second half the harp returns, accompanied by Haughms distorted chants. Excellent experimental track, which offers some needed variation.
The closing track, Across the Waters, features some (quite lame, I must admit) spoken words by Laurie-Ann Haus. Why make someone from across the Atlantic do some narratives, when your neighbour's daughter could just as easily have done the trick? Not that there's anything wrong with it per se, but it's just not very practical. Surprisingly, the wave-like motive of The Turning of the Tides returns here, but this time in a less minimalist way. And slowly, gently, we are being carried across the waters to the end of this cd by subtle drumming, gentle kantele strings, and a flute-like sound probably made with the help of some keyboards once again.
All in all, this is a most worthwhile record for those of you looking for a few much-needed moments of solitude in the chaos and confusion of modern life. Listen to this album with headphones, and even those among you who have no imagination at all will find themselves strolling through the mysterious Finnish woods, living a life we have quite forgotten about. And before I forget: the artwork is marvelous! A. Tolonen himself paints the illustrations of all Nest albums, and they are well worth it. An excellent reason on itself to buy it, instead of download.
It might be a tad difficult to find it though, as this band is not really being well-known and the distribution is done by Bulgarian label Corvus Records, which probably doesn't ring many bells either. But if you should come across this album once, don't hesitate and at least give it a spin. Just ordering it might help, too.
On oikeastaan pienoinen ihme, ettei kanteletta ole käytetty kansanmusiikin ulkopuolella kovinkaan paljon. Kyllähän tosin esimerkiksi Amorphis on tästä aikoinaan hauenleukaisesta soittimesta tehnyt kappaleen, mutta varsinaisena alan pioneerina voidaan pitää A. Tolosta ja hänen lähes yksin pyörittämäänsä Nest-yhtyettä. Yhtye on hiljalleen – musiikkinsa tahtiin, voisi jopa sanoa – rakentanut uraansa vuoden 2000 demosta vuonna 2003 julkaistuun Woodsmoke-debyyttiin ja nyt tähän uutukaiseen, joka kantaa nimeä Trail of the Unwary.
Neljä vuotta on kulunut enemmänkin ideoiden kehittelyssä kuin huiman tyylimuutoksen kourissa. Trail of the Unwary on Woodsmoken tavoin tasainen, tumma ja samettinen ambient-matka, jota kantele keveästi kuvittaa kuin ketunjäljet pakkaslumista niittyä. Ehkä tämä uusi levy on kuitenkin vieläkin pitkäsoutuisempi ja ambient-painotteisempi. Kuvan annetaan kehittyä kauemmin, ja kanteleen soinnut eivät ole enää niin selvästi se ainoa konkretiaa mukaan tuova elementti, vaan aaltoileva humina, luonnonäänet ja muut rakenteelliset ratkaisut täyttävät myös tilaa. Joskus kumahtavat rummutkin – esimerkiksi monumentaalissa Huntissa - jossa äänijänteitään käyttää myös Agallochin John Haughm - jykevästi kaikuvat, yksinkertaiset rumpukuviot sekä myös sähköisempi säräjäminen tuovat mukaan jylhää metsästyshenkeä, joka laukkaa läpi tunturien ja korpien.
Kantele on kuitenkin se voima, joka Nestia eniten kantaa, ja vaikka Tolonen varmasti instrumenttinsa taitaa, jää kaltaiselleni maallikolle kansallissoittimemme tenho joskus aika kalvakaksi ja tehottomaksi – aivan kuin instrumentista ei saisi ollenkaan irti vahvoja ja säröisempiä sävyjä. Niinpä Trail of the Unwary kalpenee paikoin liian hartaaksi tunnelmoinniksi, vaikkakin juuri tämä on voinut olla Tolosen päämäärä. Itselleni Suomen luonto, jota Nest levyn teemaan sopivaa kansitaidetta myöten pyrkii kuvaamaan, on monisyisempi ja vivahderikkaampi kokonaisuus kuin mitä Trail of the Unwary antaa olettaa.
Nest luottaa myös toisella kokopitkällään bulgarialaiseen Corvus Recordsiin ja mikä ettei, hyvin yhteistyö tuntuu sujuvan. Tälläkin kertaa levystä on olemassa myös spesiaaliversio, kahden Cd:n digipack. Tuo 99 kappaleen keräilykappale taitaa olla loppuunmyyty, joten kiirehtimättömien on tyydyttävä ihan perusversioon ilman bonus-Cd:tä. Tuotakoon esille tuon spessun selvästi kiinnostavin yksityiskohta: siltä löytyy cover legendaarisen Skepticism-yhtyeen biisistä The Gallant Crow jopa 14 minuutin mitassaan! Meinasi leuka loksahtaa ensi kertaa asiasta kuullessani. Mainiota! Ei liene tarpeen todeta, että kyseiset bändit, kuten myöskään originaali että tämä coverbiisi, eivät ole aivan kuin kaksi marjaa
Mielenkiintoisena ja kenties vähän yllättävänäkin kuriositeettina huomasin myös tämän Nest-Cd:n olleen virallisella Suomen jakelijallaan Fireboxilla myydyin levynsä maaliskuussa 2007. Toivottavasti tähän ei ole vaikuttanut mitenkään se, että ovat kaupanneet Nestiä määritelmällä "apocalyptic folk" - tuskinpa. Artisti itsekään ei miellä musiikkiaan apokalyptiseksi taikka folkiksi, puhumattakaan millaista musiikkia tuolla määreellä yleisesti kuvataan.
Kansipaperi kertoo levyä työstetyn vuosien 2003-2006 välillä, joten ihan hetkessä hutaistu se ei ole. Toisaalta maallikkona (tai no, olenhan minä 80-luvulla rakentanut itse 5-kielisen kanteleen ja sillä jotkut Ukkonooat osannut soittaa ) arvioisin kanteleen soitosta löytyvän soittovirheen ainakin kakkosbiisistä Claw and Fang (noin seitsemän minuutin kohdalla). Mikäli kyseessä ei ole virhe, sitten puuroutuminen vain kalskahtaa siltä. Pääsääntöisesti kuitenkin sävel soi kanteleella
Tyyli on edelleen hyvin tunnistettava eikä bändiä oikein voi sekoittaa mihinkään toiseen, kantele on kuitenkin niin harvinainen soitin ambient-genressä. Nestin ambient on saanut aavistuksen enemmän rytmisyyttä luidensa ympärille, mitä pidän hyvänä asiana. Erityisesti siksi, että näin voi karistaa vähän bändistä huokunutta new age -soundia, jolle en helposti lataa positiivisia määreitä. Ei tuosta vaikutelmasta nytkään voi sanoa kokonaan eroon päästävän vaikka kyllä siihen Woodsmoke-Cd:llä (2003) tottuikin. Esimerkiksi biisien The Mire ja The Turning of the Tides taustalla soiva ambient-matto kuulostaa jo siltä, että äänimaisemaa ei ole luotu ihan pelkästään "syntetisaattorin tehdasasetuksilla". Hunt puolestaan hakee eroavuutta ja ilkeyttä säröstä, siinä onnistuenkin, mutta kappale kompastuu hieman omaan massiivisuuteensa, olisin pikkaisen typistänyt 15 minuutin mitastansa.
Kehitys soundirintamalla tuo myös tarttuvuutta lisää, mutta toisaalta tältä levyltä en osaa valita yhtä selkeää hittibiisiä, kuten debyytiltä ilmestyessään suuresti viehättänyt The Silvershade Lynx. Tietty puuduttavuus vaivaa kokonaisuutena, vaikka äänimaisema tuo välillä mieleen hienosti jopa elokuvien soundtrackit. Tästä hyvinä esimerkkeinä Kontio, joka tosin tuo enemmän mieleeni Irlannin aavat nummet kuin kalevalaiset korvet sekä varsin tarttuvan melodiakulun omaava päätösraita Across the Waters. Näissä on sellaista ponnekkuutta kuin voisi olla useammassakin kappaleessa. Kritiikistä huolimatta siis reilusti plussan puolelle!
Luonnonläheisen rauhallista ja tunnelmoivan kokeellista kantelemusiikkia tarjoileva Nest on onnistunut mainiosti uusimmalla kokopitkällään. Yleisesti ottaen äänimaailma on aikaisempiin tuotoksiin nähden aavistuksen tummanpuhuvampi, rytmikkäämpi, rikkaampi ja jopa hypnoottisempikin. Erityisesti perkussiopuoli on tuotu paremmin esille, mikä tuo jännittävää vaihtelua fiilistelyyn kautta linjan. Myös eriskummalliset kautta levyn kuultavat ihmisääniefektit ansaitsevat kunniamaininnan omintakeisuutensa ja toimivuutensa vuoksi.
Viehättävintä Nestissä on aina ollut kansallissoittimemme kanteleen kekseliäs ja omaperäinen käyttö, joka poikkeaa piristävällä tavalla vaikkapa siitä kliseisestä kivireenomaisesta käsityksestä, jommoinen valitettavasti kovin monella täysin tavallisella tallaajalla kanteleesta tuppaa yhä olemaan. Nest onnistuu hienosti yhdistämään ambientin kantelemusiikkiin, tehden sen vieläpä omannäköisellä rikkaalla tavallaan, joka vaivattomasti osoittaa soittimen toimivuuden nykyaikaisemmassakin kontekstissa. Erityisesti kappale Kontio nousee tässä upeasti esille; siinä kanteleen helikielet tunnelmoivat hienosti taustalla kontivan konerytmin säestämänä.
Monipuolisuutensa ja erinomaisen toteutuksensa perusteella voisi melkein väittää Nestin tehneen tähän mennessä parhaimman levynsä, jota kuunnellessa löytää jippoja ja juttuja aina vaan enemmän ja enemmän, mitä useammin sen asettaa levylautaselle. Tämä on ehdottomasti suositeltava kokemus kaikille luonnonläheisyydestä ja tunnelmasta pitäville sieluille.
Da quando, a metà 2006, iniziarono a filtrare le ultime decisive notizie sulla concreta realizzazione di questo disco, l’attesa dei Nest-maniacs è salita ad uno stato di febbrile eccitazione: “Trail of the Unwary” arriva infine a vedere la luce nel Febbraio del 2007, ben quattro anni dopo la pubblicazione del clamoroso disco di debutto “Woodsmoke” . Tolonen, affiancato da uno sparuto gruppo di ospiti, torna a deliziarci con i colori dei suoi pastelli e della sua musica e gli affamati cultori della band non hanno potuto far altro che scandagliare i più nascosti mailorder d’Europa per riuscire ad accaparrarsi una copia di questo nuovo disco, sempre pubblicato dalla label bulgara Corvus Records.
In tutta sincerità, nonostante io apprezzi notevolmente la band, non mi aspettavo da essa chissà quali stravolgimenti, pensando di trovarmi ad ascoltare un disco-fotocopia del precedente: così non è stato, visto che Tolonen, pur senza rivoluzionare il suo sound, ha apportato alcuni sostanziali cambiamenti nel suo approccio alla musica. La prima, importante novità è la durata dei brani: se prima essi si completavano in quattro o cinque minuti, ora la lunghezza dei singoli episodi risulta raddoppiata o triplicata, ed ogni segmento appare sempre più come una storia individuale, con i suoi picchi, i suoi momenti di riflessione, le sue pause, i suoi climax – tutto ciò, beninteso, pur rimanendo lontano da quella forma-canzone che con la musica Ambient dei Nest ha poco a che spartire. Per riuscire a reggere brani così sostanziosi, Tolonen ha provveduto inoltre ad ampliare lo spettro strumentale e sonoro a sua disposizione: in “Trail of the Unwary” i suoni (sintetizzati) di flauti, tastiere, didgeridoo, percussioni ottengono ruoli nettamente più importanti rispetto a quanto succedeva in un “Woodsmoke” che era per larghi tratti quasi un soliloquio del Kantele – quest’ultimo strumento (il favorito di Tolonen), pur mantenendo un ruolo chiave, s’inserisce ora in un contesto generale decisamente più organico. Dando uno sguardo generale si nota inoltre come lo strumento ‘voce’ svolga ora una funzione marginale, essendo essa relegata a sparuti sospiri di sottofondo che, se prima venivano notati, ora in tracce ‘oceaniche’ di dieci minuti vengono facilmente trascurati.
Viene riproposto inoltre l’esperimento del Kantele “distorto elettricamente” (già presente sul debut album nella bella “Summer Storm”), ricreante un suono colmo di echi e drones, ampiamente utilizzato nel capolavoro “Hunt”, epico viaggio di un quarto d’ora capace di mostrare non solo gutturali voci narranti (cortesia di John Haughm degli americani Agalloch), catastrofiche percussioni tribali e fiammanti interventi distorti (ricreanti i momenti più concitati e crudeli della caccia), ma anche evocative sezioni atmosferiche, in cui pare di sentire il cuore della preda battere incessantemente nel silenzio della foresta, mentre le narici del cacciatore setacciano, fameliche, il sottobosco. Presenti anche episodi guidati da melodie più dolci e poetiche, quali ad esempio la solenne, spirituale e rinfrescante opener “Moonbow”, dalla struttura ciclica, o la terza “Kontio” (l’Orso), entrambe caratterizzate da un’immediata fruibilità grazie alle coinvolgenti impalcature tastieristiche ed ai sognanti motivi dei flauti. Ad intaccare questi momenti notturni, pregni di una quiete suprema, sono i destabilizzanti interventi del didgeridoo, protagonista dell’esoterica “Claw and Fang” che, come anticipa il titolo, sfodera denti e artigli per gettare nel panico la foresta, mentre stracci di nuvole coprono lo spicchio di luna che poco prima aveva rischiarato la notte. Altro brano irrequieto è “The Mire”, in cui alcune scariche d’elettricità creano un feeling di tensione e pericolo che contaminerà anche la successiva “The Turning of the Tides”, capace di trovare uno spiraglio positivo solo nella sua seconda metà, in cui alcuni cori sciamanici (a tratti riechieggiano i fantasmi gaelici di Enya) sprigionano luce e speranza, due motivi che si ritroveranno anche in “Across The Waters”, pacato finale dolcemente graziato dai soffusi sospiri femminei di Laurie Ann Haus dei Todesbonden, che restituiscono infine la pace ai paesaggi sconvolti dalla caccia frenetica, riallacciandosi alle atmosfere distese e concilianti di “Woodsmoke”.
“Trail of the Unwary” è un disco selvatico, vibrante, talmente ben organizzato che è quasi un peccato utilizzarlo soltanto come background-music; un disco che, per come è costruito, potrà trovare degli estimatori sia tra chi apprezza l’Ambient dalle sfumature Folk o New Age, sia tra chi normalmente si fa trasportare da sonorità più dure ed elettriche in cui s’incastonano intermezzi folk od atmosferici (i primi nomi che saltano alla mente sono quelli di Summoning od Agalloch). I Nest tornano a mostrarci tutta la loro abilità, tirando fuori un jolly davvero sorprendente ed affascinante: “Trail of the Unwary”, pur con tutti i limiti imposti da genere, scarsa reperibilità e background dell’artista, è da segnalarsi come uno degli episodi più fortunati di questo inizio d’anno.
Qualche tempo fa mi è capitato di leggere un interessante saggio sull'uso dei lettori portatili (walkman, CD iPod e quant'altro) che cercava di tracciare una mappa di come le persone usufruiscono di questi strumenti per raggiungere un obbiettivo più o meno consciamente. Uno degli usi più comuni della musica 'portatile', secondo questo libro, è quello di creare il cosiddetto soundscape, ovvero un paesaggio sonoro che, a seconda dei casi, può alienare l'ascoltatore creando una 'bolla' in cui isolarsi (per esempio durante l'ascolto in treno), oppure può fare da vera e propria colonna sonora che entra in sintonia con il paesaggio circostante. Ecco, quest'ultimo utilizzo sarebbe perfetto per la musica dei finlandesi Nest, un duo composto da A. Tolonen and T. Saxell, che vuole ricreare quelle sonorità antiche e naturalistiche dei paesaggi scandinavi. Per poter apprezzare alla perfezione questo CD, infatti, bisognerebbe avere la fortuna di poterlo ascoltare durante una lunga e solitaria camminata immersi nella natura più incontaminata, un luogo in cui la presenza umana non esista e il paesaggio circostante ritorni ad essere lo stesso che si poteva osservara centinaia d'anni prima. I Nest, infatti, non tentano di rievocare questi paesaggi sonori attraverso una rilettura moderna (o in chiave metal) delle atmosfere folk finlandesi; al contrario i due musicisti tentano di dare una trasposizione il più possibile filologica delle musiche antiche, utilizzando strumenti e lingue originali. Alla base della musica dei Nest, infatti, c'è il kantele, uno strumento a corde di tradizione finnica che ha una storia di più di 2000 anni, ed è proprio questo il punto di forza di "Trail Of The Unwary".
Il CD è composto da sette lunghe composizioni, per una durata complessiva che sfiora i settanta minuti; la musica è dilatata, antica, solenne e riesce perfettamente a rievocare quei paesaggi che vengono descritti dalle poche parole che accompagnano il CD; gli strumenti utilizzano sempre melodie semplici, minimali, ben lontane da ogni eccesso e capaci di non scadere mai nel tranello della world music da quattro soldi. Nelle composizioni del gruppo esiste sempre un sostrato creato da suoni gravi e profondi, dati dal basso e dalle tastiere, che creano un alone notturno e oscuro, ma la linea melodica principale vive tutta sui suoni del kantele, che si adagia con forza sul tappeto degli altri strumenti, dando davvero quel qualcosa in più: gli arpeggi e gli accordi suonati da Tolonen, infatti, mitigano quel senso di eccessiva dilatazione, dando un senso di ritmo, un appiglio in un fluire continuo di suoni. Certo, questo non significa che l'ascolto di un CD come "Trail Of The Unwary" sia semplice, tutt'altro. La sua forza sta proprio nella sua capacità di entrare in sintonia con un certo tipo di sensibilità naturalista in determinate condizioni: pensare di ascoltarlo nel mezzo del traffico cittadino o come sottofondo mentre si cucina è assurdo. Basterebbe considerare la durata del CD per capirlo: un album interminabile, che ascoltato tutto di fila potrebbe addirittura far cadere nella noia. Eppure non si può negare l'innegabile fascino di un lavoro che vive davvero al di fuori del tempo.
Prima di concludere, infine, vale la pena di fare un plauso al gruppo e alla Corvus Records per la cura dei particolari nella creazione di quest'opera: i suoni sono ben bilanciati, si sentono un grande numero di suoni tratti dalla natura (acqua, fruscii, rumori notturni) che aiutano nel visualizzare le immagini evocate dalla musica, senza contare la bellissima copertina, che si sposa alla perfezione con la musica del duo (a questo proposito provate a fare un salto sul sito del gruppo, per vedere la cura data dal gruppo alla grafica e all'aspetto visuale).
Che altro aggiungere, quindi? Sarebbe inutile soffermarsi sulle singole tracce: i Nest hanno creato un lavoro che è un fluire unico, lento, difficile, ma ricco di fascino. Di certo non tutti sarebbero in grado di entrare in piena sintonia con un'opera del genere, quantomeno senza le giuste condizioni, e questo forse è il suo unico limite. Se però amate i paesaggi nordici e cercate una perfetta colonna sonora, i Nest non vi deluderanno senza alcun dubbio.