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Prolusion. Formed in 2006 in Helsinki, Finland, KUMINA.ORG are a trio of very skilled musicians (though since April 2009 they have added another member, flutist/keyboardist Fredrik Soderholm, to their ranks). After the 2007 release of a 4-track demo as a free download (no longer available), they started working on their debut album, “Entropia”, which was released at the very start of 2009. Keyboardist Ahmed Ahonen was previously a member of Finnish band Discordia.
TRACK LIST: 1. Toiset Seitseman Paivaa 5.26 2. Etydi 3.42 3. Flegmaatikko 7.52 4. Tahdon Asiaa 4.48 5. Rantapalloistuminen 4.55 6. Rytmo-I 2.33 7. Rytmo-II 6.36 8. Puolestoista Kerta 5.08 9. Rytmo-III 0.48 10. Seuraus 4.02 LINEUP: Ahmed Ahonen – keyboards Jukka Packalen – bass; guitar Matti Kanerva – drums
Analysis. For all its unassuming profile on the world map, for decades Finland has been a hotbed of amazingly accomplished music. From classical to heavy metal, the number of Finnish bands or artists to hit the international spotlight is nothing short of astounding – considering the country has only about 5 and a half million inhabitants. In the Seventies, Finland took to progressive rock with surprising enthusiasm for such an isolated country, and produced a number of excellent acts – particularly in the field of jazz-rock, with Wigwam as probably the name most familiar to prog fans. Following in the footsteps of those past greats, the oddly-named Kumina.org present the listener with a skilfully-executed instrumental album where the overtly jazzy foundation is underpinned by distinctly ‘old-school’ keyboards, which have drawn comparisons to the likes of Keith Emerson. Incidentally, the band are a trio where the bassist, just like Greg Lake in ELP, also shares guitar duties (though, in this case, minus the vocals). Another comparison that came to my mind while listening to “Entropia” were Colosseum-II, especially as regards the unbridled use of keyboards in a jazz-rock context. As can be expected, Kumina.org’s music scores very highly as regards technical quotient, and can occasionally come across as somewhat detached, even if not exactly cold. The trio manage to produce a stunning amount of music, their compositions displaying the complexity typical of the genre, though without descending into excess. The strongest jazz vibe comes from bassist Juha Packalen’s excellent work, never obtrusive but very much in evidence, and acting in perfect synch with Matti Kanerva’s brilliant drumming patterns. The band’s sound is also very much about melody, the compositions very rarely indulging in any avant-garde-tinged excursions. Theirs is a somewhat old-school take on jazz-rock, which – especially on account of the role played by keyboards – can be compared to the likes of Mahavishnu Orchestra or Return to Forever, or even Italy’s DFA (though minus the Canterbury influences displayed by the latter). Unlike other contemporary jazz/rock acts, they have not been ‘infected’ by the metal bug: the presence of the guitar is limited to a few tracks, and when it can be heard, it is more in the style of classic rock than the ‘sound and fury’ typical of the heavier fringes of the rock spectrum. Album opener Toiset Seitseman Paivaa (Another Seven Days) leads the listener deep into jazz-rock territory, with whistling synths over a strong bass line, alternating with what sounds distinctly like a Hammond organ (though not mentioned in the liner notes). The overall impression is exhilarating and quite intense, since the music rarely lets up, especially as regards the all-out keyboard assault. Like the title suggests, Etydi (a Finnish rendering of the French word ‘etude’) is instead a piano-based piece with a definite classical feel – though the nimble, pneumatic bass work lends it a welcome sense of energy, and the organ in the second half may recall Jon Lord’s distinctive style. Another strongly bass-driven composition, Flegmatiikko (Phlegmatic), the longest track on the album at almost 8 minutes, offers a lush musical tapestry mainly woven by Ahonen’s abandoned, Emerson-like synth playing, at times slurred and dissonant, vying with the more melodic sound of the piano. Interestingly, at the end the tempo sharply changes into a vaguely reggae-inspired rhythm. More reggae influences surface in the funnily-named Rantapalloistuminen (Beach-Ball Sitting), which also features a decidedly rock-styled guitar solo that reminded me of Gary Moore’s work with Colosseum-II. The second half of the album comes across as slightly more experimental in tone, though not as advanced as the work of the more innovative acts in the field of jazz-rock. The three-part Rytmo sounds at times quite improvisational and not as tightly-knit as the previous offerings, featuring heavily treated bass and guitar, and even throwing in some ‘noise’ effects for a change. On the other hand, Puolestoista Kerta (First-and-a-Half Time), with its intriguing keyboard interaction and mainly melodic mood, and album closer Seuraus (Consequence), a dramatic, almost cinematic workout that alternates two different themes (as well as including a clean, sharp-sounding guitar solo), follow the pattern of the album’s first half. Though “Entropia” may not be the most original album released during 2009, it is nonetheless a very solid effort from a promising new outfit, and a must for keyboard fans. Kudos to the band for keeping the album running time short, since this kind of music, in my view, does not benefit from excessive length.
Conclusion. Fans of classic jazz-rock/fusion will not fail to enjoy “Entropia”, a well-crafted debut from a very accomplished new band following in the footsteps of the trailblazers of the genre. The instrumental proficiency of the three members is also sure to be a draw for listeners who prize technical brilliance above all, as well as for practising musicians, who will also definitely appreciate the detailed listing of the instruments used on each track.