This is a blog devoted to music on the edge - experimental, underground, alternative, subversive, or just plain weird - new music that tries new things, or old music that broke old rules. It's a place to discuss ideas, share discoveries, to think about what makes music interesting and challenging but still good to listen to. Join in and have your say!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Star Wars on acid: Tomutonttu

I was born long enough ago to have been around in the days when computer games first started to appear in pubs and arcades and, even then, I was enough of an oddball to have been at least, and probably more, fascinated by the noise they made than by the aliens you could shoot with them. Those beepy, bleepy noises. They didn’t do much but, even back then, I remember thinking that someone could probably do something pretty interesting with them.

And, I guess, lots of people did. Just listen to anything by Kraftwerk and follow your nose from there.

But one thing that you might not find, unless you know how to sniff out the really rare, delectable treats that are buried in far away corners, is the music of a contemporary solo Finnish project, called Tomutonttu, the work of Tampere-based Jan Anderzén, musician and artist and leader of Finland’s avant garde freak-folk band Kemialliset Ystävät.

Tomutonttu, I am told, means ‘dust gnome’. And if you can imagine a peculiar little alien gnome, shooting freaky little bits of cosmic dust through space, like he is playing some little intergalactic video game, then you might know a little of what to expect on the two freakily titled Tomutonttu albums, Tomutonttu (2007) and Tomutonto (2009), that I happened to stumble across, quite by accident, a few days ago.

There is a toy-like innocence to this music, with its electronic, psychedelic notes that bounce and pop and skip amongst the noises of animals and birds and ancient chants, like a child’s kaleidoscope of time and space, especially in Tomutonttu, the earlier album.

But it’s a child who has, perhaps, stolen a tab of acid, because there’s an unsettling uncanniness about this music, too, like its playful naïveté is just a sham, and the music, despite how it sounds at first, is having not fun but hallucinations. Rhythms that started out squarely and steadily disintegrate into a dizzy free flow; melodies that were full of sunlight, without a care in the world, slowly become just a little creepy, even while they’re still shining and glistening. It’s like one of those mechanical child toys that you begin to think might be possessed by something.

Tomutonto, the later of the two albums, is also the more aggressive, the darker. Its sounds are more deconstructed, more noise-based, and there is less of Stars and more of Wars in the feel of it all.

Both of these albums are fascinating explorations of that strange place where old things and new things, where innocence and corruption, laughter-filled playgrounds and empty voids, where music and noise, intersect.

Just like today’s adults who, as yesterday’s children, shot thousands and thousands of aliens, to the sound of bouncy computer bleeps, in the arcades of their local shopping centres.

Available through Fonal Records.

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