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Juha Kujanpää — Old Ways, New Ways
(Kuu Records, 2022, CD / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2023-03-26

Old Ways, New Ways Cover art

On his latest effort, Juha Kujanpää continues the trajectory of his previous releases. He’s always worked in a realm that bridges rock, folk, classical, and jazz, and on Old Ways, New Ways that remains the case. Some of the tracks work as lovely folk-inflected chamber music arranged for woodwinds, wordless vocals, rhythm section, and occasional brass. Others lean a little more to the rock side, with more emphasis on the electric guitar. Kujanpää’s steadfast melodicism can sometimes work against him, and there are times when the music sinks into a kind of smarmy 70s-film vibe, with corny saxes and sappy accompaniment. The contradictory phrase “aggressively inoffensive” comes to mind — the music seems designed not so much to please anyone as to avoid any discomfort. There are no moments of dissonance or tension from which there can be release. It’s a fluffy confection that passes almost without notice, leaving no trace of its passing and no memory of any emotional impact. It is quite literally “easy listening.” From track to track my reaction ranges from “Oh, is it over? I missed it,” to “OK, I don’t need to hear that again.” Since I’m not interested in talking about Old Ways, New Ways anymore, I’ll relate an incident from my teenage years. As a budding composer, I attended a weeklong workshop hosted by an arts foundation where high schoolers who had submitted original pieces and could get advice from professionals. I remember one girl who had written a lovely piano piece that, if it had been 1982 instead of 1975, could have found a home on Windham Hill Records — call it proto-New Age. Most of the other attendees snickered at its simplicity and lack of 20th Century edginess, but I thought they were being snobbish and unfair. There’s a market for music like that, and you have to admit that when it comes to Classical music, more people listen to Mozart than Schoenberg. Take that as you will.

Filed under: New releases, 2022 releases

Related artist(s): Juha Kujanpää

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