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TRACK LIST: 1. Gone a Little 4:59 2. Pieces of the Unknown 5:41 3. Hold That Thought 5:29 4. Plasterlove 3:59 5. Safest Place 2:43 6. My Kind of Lullaby 5:31 7. Skin 3:41 8. Holy Song 5:01 9. My Friend Sorrow 8:14 10. Knight in Armour 3:05 LINEUP: Petra Poutanen - vocals, guzheng, kantele, sansula Teemu Kiiskila - guitars Iida Savolainen - viola Aku-Pekka Kurjenniemi - drums, percussion Tony Sikstrom - bass, percussion, midiwind Katri Antikainen - violincello, cello Margit Urantowka - piano, keys
Prolusion. Finnish band UTU have existed in one variation or another since sometime around 2005, and the band itself notes 2007 as something of a formative year of their ensemble. They have released three studio albums to date. "Pieces of the Unknown" dates back to 2016, and is their second album. Since then they have also released one further album, "Russian Poets".
Analysis. Utu is one of those bands that firmly documents that progressive rock is still very much alive, present and creative. They do not explore a specific tradition within this universe as such, and their material does not invite to associations towards artists of a greater stature nor towards household names in progressive rock circles as such. While perhaps not residing in totally uncharted waters, they do at least navigate parts of the ocean where not too many others have chosen to venture forth. A lot revolve around the vocals here. While the compositions themselves aren't at all of the variety merely present to support a singer, the vocals have such a central position throughout that it is needed to enjoy them to also be able to enjoy the music. Female lead vocals is the thing here, and in this case of a mainly frail, dream-laden and occasionally sleepy kind. The kind of voice that one might imagine encountering in a fantasy realm, possibly belonging to an elf or a creature of a comparable nature. A most charming voice, at least in my opinions, that fits the landscapes explored oh so nicely indeed. The music is some kind of a blend of ancient folk music, chamber music and jazz, with a wee bit of rock energy and tension thrown into the mix as the icing on the cake. Ranging from slow, mournful escapades to more tension-filled excursions, a lot revolves around plucked string instruments, the aforementioned vocals and textured, darker sounds of a more frail and delicate nature that come and go, the latter mainly used as undercurrents. From delicate, light toned and almost whimsical creations to dark, somber and sorrow-filled tapestries of sounds, this is an album that carefully ebb and flow in emotions just as much as intensity. Rhythms and guitars both add depth, tension and momentum each in their own way, as separate additions to these landscapes as well as combined. The latter parts the more dramatic ones at hand, as almost jarring eruptions of noise in an otherwise tranquil existence. Moments of dramatic darkness in a melancholic, gentle landscape if you like.
Conclusion. Music has traditionally been considered as one of the art forms rather than as mere entertainment, and Finnish band Utu showcase that it is still possible to create music that by most listeners will be perceived and experienced as art rather than entertainment on this production. A production that may well find favor among fans of bands such as Bent Knee, despite exploring rather different landscapes in a markedly different manner: Bent Knee being the exponents of a modern sound and approach to a type of music where Utu represents the shapes and forms looking back to times rather more ancient.
Progmessor: July 29th 2018
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