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TRACK LIST: 1. Osa Yksi 4:04 2. Osa Kaksi 4:29 3. Osa Kolme 4:34 4. Osa Nelja 4:04 5. Osa Viisi 5:31 6. Osa Kuusi 9:40 LINEUP: Joonas Hietala – accordion, keyboards; bass, guitars Sini Palokangas – sax; vibraphone; violin; voice Jussi Hurskainen – sax Nico Kanerva – clarinet Heikki Puska – harp Heikki Korhola – drums Vesa Makkonen – bass; voice
Prolusion. The Finnish ensemble VITKASTE has been around in one form or another since 2004, describing their activities as "modern/traditional electronic/acoustic audio/visual composed/improvised trio/collective music" – a multimedia art collective in short. The most recent output from the music part of this outfit is the CD "Lestinjoki", issued in the spring of 2011.
Analysis. Finland is one of many countries with what appears to be a solid underground scene of artists exploring different aspects of the progressive rock universe. From the massive, long-lasting Colossus instigated collaborative projects, featuring both Finnish and international artists, to an apparently active and vital space rock and psychedelic rock scene, but also a host of artists recording and self releasing material in a number of different stylistic expressions. Many of them probably fly well under the radar of the international progressive rock scene, but some choose to try to reach outside of their national borders with their creative output, and Vitkaste is amongst those bands. On what I surmise is their full length debut disc, we're treated to an act fond of light-toned, positive music. Wandering piano motifs are a central trait throughout this production, most often performed in a manner referencing jazz to some extent. Bass and drums underscore nicely and skillfully, wandering back and forth between the realms of jazz and rock in expression, while the guitar has more of a subservient role as solo provider, adding dampened psychedelic-tinged licks or the occasional gnarly, dark-toned motif contrasting the remaining instrumentation. Keyboards cater for a symphonic backdrop, fleshing out the arrangements taking the lead when the band opts to explore territories closer to what Camel took on in the first half of the 70's, but when they shift over to a fusion and jazz-oriented delivery the electronic tangents have a role of a distinctly subservient and dampened nature. Adding additional spices to the proceedings are a minor variety of additional instruments: accordion and violin for the passages featuring an additional folk vibe, while clarinet and saxophones are given partially prominent roles when Vitkaste are exploring the aforementioned jazz- and fusion-oriented themes. The end result is a short production, clocking in at just over 32 minutes, filled with pleasant, positive music, deceptively easygoing, but with sophisticated arrangements and a fair few challenging details lurking beneath the accessible melodies crafted by the dominating motifs. Not quite at the level of being great music as such, but most certainly a disc that will find its rightful place as treasured item amongst a select audience.
Conclusion. Positive, instrumental art rock referencing mid 70's Camel and jazz rock from about the same era is what the Finnish band Vitkaste has to offer on their album “Lestinjoki”. Good quality music, well performed and adequately produced, and a fine album for those with a fancy for instrumental music going back and forth between symphonic art rock and fusion in stylistic expression.
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