This is the sort of thing that excites me. Yes, I probably should be admitted to a lunatic asylum but my excitement in this case does not come from the number of consecutive consonants in the band and album name, but the discovery thanks to an offhand comment on my part of a new band creating experimental improvisations. The band is not new, having been around since 2008. Further enticement came in the form of the summary on the band’s site: “Tottumiskysymys is a collective that creates unsound combinations of dark noise, children’s toys, musical clichés and weird visualizations”.
Weird it is. But it’s also profoundly stimulating. This is everything. What I think isn’t what you might think. We all experience things differently. But this is an experience. “Sulake” (Fuse) is like being taken through space with a riot of sound waves everywhere. Are the noises galactic or industrial? Most disturbing is an occasional deadened ding-ding sound, which may come from a modular synth. It worries me. I may meet a Clanger at this rate. I am in the world of a 1970 children’s tv programme. Where’s the Soup Dragon? The anarchic freedom of sound gives me another reminder the same era – the band East of Eden. But here it’s darker, and the mandolin and clarinet fall inside disturbing electronic waves, drones and moving mechanical parts. The sound is inhuman, but the sucking noise is somehow taking life out of me. If I wasn’t mad already, I am becoming so. “Väänt” is then the strangest of symphonies. The monotonous beat is about the only normal thing. It sounds like trumpets but not as anyone would know them. Sonic waves reverberate through the dark picture. It’s speeding up but I don’t where it’s going. In fact I don’t know where I am. It’s out of control yet there is a suggestion of industrial process in this vast and most intriguing cacophony. I am reminded of the days where you’d play a 45rpm single at 33rpm. But this ode to a warped existence is deliberate. They weren’t joking when they said this was experimental.
Fluttery sounds pass through the next irregular cosmic journey. The waves sound like what one would imagine a talking alien to sound like. There’s something psychedelic about this extra-terrestrial sound experience. It’s not all-out sonic attack because we are allowed to ponder as the clarinet withers its way through the field of bass-inspired drone. From the relative straight line and calm, albeit of the disturbing variety, of “Etsivä” (Detective), “Tuhka” (Ash) is like a magnetic field. It is dark and imposing. The industrial process restarts. Dark noise indeed. All kinds of weird and wonderful things are happening around us, if we care to imagine ourselves in the middle of this alien and fearsome world. Also sprach Zarathustra. The screeching mandolin could be a bird, or a whale communicating in a vast ocean. And yet the drone sounds like an aeroplane. This is mind-boggling. Hey, I think we’ve found the Clangers. “Ohitus” (Passing) is another amazing jumble of electronic interference. Underneath it is a dark and sinister sound, but surviving these waves appear to be an alternative form of life. Acker Bilk eat your heart out. The clarinet here on “Koneisto” (Machinery) wobbles distantly under the dark and multiplying soundwaves. The threat increases as the sound expands. The screeches give the impression of something/somebody trying to communicate but it’s mechanical, it’s out of control …. brilliant, brilliant ending.
“Tottumiskysymys” has such freedom of expression, and while painting a dark and at times scary alternative world, still manages to portray a broad expanse of tableaux. On the face of it, there are no people and no human scenarios other than the ones we conjure up in our mind while listening to this. But that’s part of its attraction. We’re out there somewhere in a dark and unfamiliar space. These sound experiments may appear random and chaotic, but they are not. Interestingly I learnt that the original material came from a jam session, but then the album was mixed and mastered by Finnish soundmeister Kenneth Kovasin, whose subtle touches pull the album together and make it so much more interesting. It may not seem to be about life, but this is an alternative form of life and being. Maybe this is a sign of my insanity but I felt something was out there trying to communicate through these dark musical strobes. I understand that Tottumiskysymys translates as “a question of getting used to”. Well, it depends where you start. I could very easily get used to this. So long as you don’t set any boundaries in advance, “Tottumiskysymys” is fuel for the imagination.
(9/10 Andrew Doherty)