Harri Kuusijarvi Koutus
Koutus (Sibarecords, 2014)
Over the years I’ve gotten to listen to a whole lot of music. Some I liked. Some I didn’t. But I have to say that I don’t think I’ve ever been completely astonished at the first listen to a CD as when I slipped in Harri Kuusijarvi Koutus’s debut Koutus, out on the Sibarecords label. Stunned and a bit stupefied pretty much sums up my first reaction.
I try not to read liner notes and press material before listening to the music and maybe I should change that. Lessen the shock and all that, because I certainly didn’t have any idea about an accordion lashed to hard rock guitar and drums. Yes you read that correctly, an accordion against electric guitar and drums. I think I might have gotten a hint from the press release where it opens with, “Harri Kuusijarvi Koutus redefines accordion music.” It goes on to point out, “Inspired by the artic landscape of Koutus the group creates a distinctive sound barrier that draws on various contemporary influences, coming together as an irresistible form of innovative instrumental music beyond genres.” The crazy part of this is that after listening I totally get it.
So as not to scare the straight laced, I’ll say that Koutus does leap headlong into the esoteric in parts and probably not for the casual listener. I’m not suggesting that it isn’t listenable, but I don’t think I’d play it at my next family picnic. For those of you not in the know, the Sibarecords label is part of Finland’s Sibelius Academy, one of the largest music universities in Europe.
Producing singers, musicians and composers, the Sibelius Academy has done not only produced a plethora of extraordinary musicians, but probably done more for the possibilities of music – fostering the new and innovative directions of young musicians – thus, the unexpected the genre-bending of Koutus.
Utilizing the bare knuckle boldness of Veikki Virkajarvi on electric guitar and Tatu Ronkko on drums and percussion, Mr. Koutus teases and taunts the listener with his accordion, pulling out one surprise after another like a whole host of rabbits out of a hat. Opening with a flurry of accordion work against sleek electric guitar lines, Koutus opens with “Introduction” leaving the listener breathless as accordion, electric guitar and drums blossom into a big rock opening before giving way to a spare, mysterious sound musical landscape. “Mama Come Home” is delicious with a rocking jazz edginess before the trio slips into the lazy mystery of “Waltz from the Past.”
Koutus goes atmospheric with tracks like spare solitude feel of “February Oblivion” or the percussive heavy “Reindeer Derby,” which you simply have to hear in order to get the title. One almost gets the feel of movie soundtrack music on tracks like the darkly worked “Then” or the ruthless undertones of “Joik” with its razor sharp guitar licks. Title track “Koutus” alternatively spits out jazz and rock themes before ruthlessly taking the listener on a rough ride into the unknown.
Smoothing out the edges, “Now” pulls back and offers up a melancholic musicscape surrounding Mr. Koutus on accordion. Rounding out Koutus is “Fragile,” an “other space” track that’s got just enough rock and enough easiness to sound like coming home.
Koutus is startling, stunning and ferocious.
Author: TJ Nelson
TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena’s Shadow.
Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931.
Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.