Tummaa, Finnish for darkness, was apparently inspired by the long long nights of the Arctic winter (and I find it depressing enough in Scotland when it’s dark before 4). It’s a trio recording where Sasu Ripatti is joined by Craig Armstrong and Argentinian reed player Lucio Capece.
The mood of the album is almost wholly downbeat, with sparse instrumentation and plenty of space. Armstrong plays acoustic and electric piano, sometimes muted in the mix, sometimes providing a rhythmic pulse and sometimes a short and repeating neo-classical melody. Capece’s saxophone and clarinet parts are very often barely recognisable as such, being muted or distorted beyond recognition. The baritone sounding burps at the beginning of “Mustelmia” provide a rare moment resembling conventional sax playing, although the lowly mixed runs on “Kuula” leak through like noise from a distant jazz radio station.
Around his collaborators’ contribution, Ripatti weaves a net of percussion effects, tweaked and twisted. On occasion, such as on the title track, it’s the piano’s two note refrain that provides the rhythmic heart of the piece, and the percussion that provides a kind of cracked melodic counterpoint. Only “Toive” with its martial beat and quasi-dubstep finale flirts with conventional percussive rhythms, although “Mustelmia” has a section with a squelchy 4/4 beat that reminds me of Cabaret Voltaire’s “Silent Command”.
With four of the seven tracks breaching the ten minute mark, and two others not far short of it, the music is set free to evolve in often surprising ways. High on atmosphere, it may be a pretty unconventional sounding record, but it’s a long way from being scarily atonal. “Melankolia”, for example, contains some of Craig Armstrong’s loveliest melodies, and there are plenty of instances throughout the album where the disparate sounds coalesce into something quite moving. Like Supersilent’s work (to which there is actually little musical resemblance), Tummaa offers music that combines the abstract with a melodic heart. I recommend it without reservation.
1 Melankolia (10:58)
2 Kuula (Kiitos) (9:02)
3 Mustelmia (8:13)
4 Musta Planeetta (5:11)
5 Toive (11:09)
6 Tummaa (10:19)
7 Tunnelivisio (11:16)