Nuojuva: Valot Kaukaa
On Valot Kaukaa, Finnish producer Olli Aarni, working as Nuojuva, creates a strange, romantic world of sound. We hear wind and birdsong; crackle and hiss; hints of familiar classical pieces; cello, flute, and violin; whispers and sighs from Rachel Evans of Motion Sickness of Time Travel; and the lovely piano work of Sophie Hutchings, whose 2010 album, Becalmed, was one of my 2011 “Records to Die For.”
The sounds here are gentle, soothing, and soft, rather than aggressive, harsh, and angular. Something about these sounds seems to look into the past, as if turning pages in a photo album or viewing old 8mm films. If Aarni is working with nostalgiaI think he is, but not obviously or tediouslyhe does so without becoming gloomy or regretful: These sounds speak more of happiness and lightness than longing and weight. Certain pieces, such as “Kaipaa,” which combines random percussion with ghostlike vocals and a playful synth melody, are even danceable. And pieces like the floating “Ahovieret” and the starry-eyed “Laakso” recall the most memorable work of Leyland Kirby’s Caretaker worldat once indoors and out, firmly grounded in the present yet deeply intrigued by the past.
Like Kirby, Olli Aarni also cares deeply about sound quality. Tape hiss, vinyl crackle, and birdsong work to transport the listener to another time and place, but the overall fidelity remains high: The sound of acoustic instruments is natural and delicate, creating a fun and interesting contrast with the carefully processed and sampled sounds.
Valot Kaukaa, available now from the wonderful Preservation label and distributed in the US by the equally wonderful Forced Exposure, was mastered by experimental guitarist and composer Giuseppe Ielasi. It's a lot of fun to listen to on the hi-fi. The album’s title translates, loosely, to “light from afar.” This seems appropriate: The music sounds like what I hear in my mind as the morning sun moves me from sleep.