Two people? Two people? No way does this sound like two people. Perhaps the lads from Finland have four arms, or multi-tracked, or invited some reindeer to play along. Komatsu is full and lush, ripe with intriguing sounds, left of center and far from typical post-rock fare. The oddness of the project makes it appealing. This isn’t loud-quiet-loud; it barks back-and-forth across the divide like friendly, teasing neighbors.
The textures of “First” unfold over bongo-like drum rolls, inviting the listener to lean into the recording, to attempt to decipher what is taking place. Is this prog or is this preamble? Jussi and Juha-Pekka aren’t telling. (They are too busy playing multiple instruments at once.) When a discernible beat emerges, it seems to do so without intention, as if to say, we’ve already done everything else, why not this? As if in response, the guitars then decide to go off the rails. On the ensuing piece, the drums suddenly seem much more forward, while the guitar grows more reticent. Over the course of the album, this do-si-do repeats frequently, each participant honoring the other with space and enhancement. Whenever one lands on a pattern that works (as in the midsection of “Nothing for money”), he repeats it for a few bars until the player becomes bored and moves on to experiment elsewhere. Like the best jazz musicians, these two stand back, admire and listen to the other before offering adornment.
At the same time, the album possesses a sense of internal propulsion, moving toward its closing tracks with a winking knowledge of the crescendos that await. The album’s ten-minute centerpiece, “Third”, slowly enters dangerous waters, erupting in the sixth minute with a deep, expansive bass. The two-part “Fourth” begins in what sounds like an abandoned barn, tapping, tinkering and taking inventory of the available instruments. The second part is a rocket launch featuring a drum section reminiscent of that found on The Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz”. This two-and-a-half minute track provides an unexpected catharsis; the shift from the experimental to the banging is an indication that the duo knows how to rock but sets its sights on something higher.
Komatsu is an extremely intelligent album, hard to decipher at first, but worth the effort to get to know. This is the sort of experimentation that moves music forward. (Richard Allen)