October Falls’ work has always been close to nature. In more recent times, ambient reflection has given way to harshness and fire. “Kaarna” however harks back to acoustic days, giving us an “assemblage from nature mysticism, a sonic walk in the woods, a sacred moment of intense inspiration, a pure quiet time”. The material is not new but comprises work from the period between 2002 and 2010.
Sometimes with compilation albums, it’s a mish-mash of bits and pieces, but not here. Everything here is acoustic, quiet and is inspired by the environment of Finnish forests and all that is in it. The track titles alone give a sense of natural unity. Translated, they are: Mist, Wind, Path, November, Dawn and Demise. The minimalism in the titles is reflected in the music, which still manages to be subtle, delicate and sensitive.
The soft acoustic melancholy starts with “Usva” (Mist). Light winds (“Viima”) blow across the scene before the more reflective “Polka” (Path) is played. I knew none of these tracks but they are typical of October Falls in their nature-friendly ambiance. I did know “Marras” (November), the 36 minute EP from 2005. As the title suggests, the mood is autumnal and suggestive of leaves gently falling from trees. The acoustic guitar represents the mood of quiet and is both emotion-ridden and hypnotic. There is a gentle ebb and flow. Mysterious chanting can be heard. Musically, there’s an element of “Wind in the Willows” about this. Birds tweet in the woods. The wistful flute reinforces the underlying gloom. The subtlety lies in the interplay between light and dark.
The second cd consists of two substantial tracks. First the 19 minute “Sarastus” continues the acoustically-driven mellow and calm mood. Progress is slow. There is constant and heavy rain fall. The melancholy reflects nature’s progress. There are a series of passages as if a cycle is being followed. It’s relaxing. Occasional the mood reflects heightening melancholy but although it’s controlled, it’s clear that it’s not human but nature which is in control. The rain falls incessantly. “Tuoni” (Demise) takes on an orchestral aspect. It’s moody, dark, melancholic and gloomy. There’s a sense of darkness descending as birds sing in the woods. Progress is deliberate. It’s quite monotonous and even overwhelming. “Tuoni” invades the soul for its 24 minutes. Although light occasionally peers through the dark forest, it gives a strong sense of loneliness. Changes are subtle. From a human’s point of view, endurance is required as nature takes its quiet course.
This acoustic compilation has great harmony. Each song has delicacy and an ambiance which has a cosmic feel. “Kaarna” is not exciting. In fact it can be hard-going but this is unbending nature. This absorbing collection is nature’s anthem.
(8/10 Andrew Doherty)