Seldom have I written a review to counter another review. This is that rare case. Another music journal recently slammed Kemialliset Ystävät‘s latest album, while I think it’s the Finnish collective’s best effort to date. That review criticized Alas Rattoisaa Virtaa for being unfocused, a sonic reflection of A.D.D.; I found the album imaginative, packed with wild ideas.
This discrepancy (who are you going to believe?) brings a new musical controversy to the fore. Is there value to packing a lot into a tight space? Or is the “better” work the work in which ideas are given space to breathe and develop? To add fuel to the fire: there’s a big difference between an inability to focus (attention deficit disorder) and a desire to be generous. Yes, there’s a lot going on throughout Alas Rattoisaa Virtaa. But this doesn’t mean the musicians were bored. As for the listener, I posit the opposite: this isn’t music for people of low focus. Instead, this is music made for people with high focus. How else might one comprehend all that is taking place? When a reviewer claims too much is going on, might the reviewer be the one with the problem? I prefer a buffet to a catered, three-choice meal; the more, the merrier.
Alas Rattoisaa Virtaa is a merry album. It’s impossible not to think of a pink Christmas when viewing the cover: a cavalcade of food and presents, an extravagance. The cover explodes with pattern and color. Jan Anderzén and his merry band want us to have a happy time. No expense has been spared. There will be leftovers. So yes, this album is stuffed with samples and strange instruments. Tempos and timbres vary. Numerous things are happening at once: birds and running water, children and native chanters, percussion and loops, traditional instruments and toys, even a theremin. Do you want less? Really?
Imagine wandering into a forest in which everything talks: the ground, the trees, the air, the animals, none of them dangerous, none of them shy. Now imagine God tripping over a cloud and dropping all of his rainbows at once. That’s Alas Rattoisaa Virtaa. The album lends itself well to children’s games: Find the cat. Where’s the bongo? 2010’s Ullakkopola was an untamed creature; but on this new LP, every imaginary beast is off the leash. It’s pure pink fun, like Christmas in May. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 12 May