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Pekka Pohjola — Pewit
(Pohjola PELPCD 8, 1997, CD)

Pewit Cover art

It's been a few years since Pohjola's last studio release, and with a couple of live albums and some intermittent touring to hold him over, he had plenty of time to devote to developing this one, and it shows. Music this melodically sophisticated doesn't come easy, but it's what we've come to expect from this gifted Finnish composer and multi-instrumentalist. Working again in a four-piece rock format similar to his Space Waltz of a decade ago, the pieces shift through numerous changes in setting, mood, dynamics, and tempo, and deliver an everchanging kaleidoscopic chain of themes and subsequent variations. Throughout, Pohjola handles the bass duties (quite spectacularly, in fact on the sidelong "Rita / Melkein" that opens the disc, he tracks the piano parts and offers an impressive bass solo to boot) and doubles on keyboards. Pohjola has a knack for knowing when to bring it down softly and when to let it rip, and that masterful command of rock dynamics is evident throughout this disc. Elements of folk, classical, and chamber intertwine in the quieter passages, with a few hints of jazz sprinkled into the mix. The rest of the band does a splendid job as well, most notably keyboardist Seppo Kantonen and guitarist Markku Kanerva (both are veterans of his 1992 Changing Waters CD and the subsequent live tours). The sidelong finale "Ordinary Music" involves a lot of dense percussion, and is probably a little out-of-character compared to the others, but remains interesting listening nonetheless. In all, this may well be Pohjola's best since B the Magpie or Visitation, and would indeed be a good starting point for new listeners.

by Peter Thelen, Published 1998-02-01

Ever since leaving Wigwam in the early 70s Pekka Pohjola has been creating a steady stream of outstanding solo releases. More recently he showed just how good his live band is with two superb CD's recorded during his Japanese tour. With the release of Pewit, his first CD of new material in several years, Pekka proves conclusively that his talents are as fresh and vital as ever. The disc contains many of his signature compositional features such as  themes that gradually develop and unfold to achieve climactic moments of both beauty and power. The melodies vary from the majestic to more folk-influenced moments that have graced the music of Scandinavians such as Samlas, Piirpauke, and of course Pohjola's own prior works. The effective use of dynamics has always been a strength of Pekka's compositions, and the contrasts between gentle melodic sections and the intensity of band crescendos make the listening experience particularly exhilarating. Nowhere is this contrast more notable than on the lengthy closing track, "Ordinary Music" (which is anything but ordinary!) It begins with a dark, moody intro featuring some  sparse and dissonant piano playing. Ultimately it builds into an intense duo climax of pulsating drums and wailing guitar. The surprise is a rapid shift into a string sextet (featuring several members of the Pohjola clan by the way!) This track is a true departure from Pekka's past as most of the playing (with the exception of the string section) has a strongly improvisational feel to it. The playing on the entire disc is consistently excellent with special recognition due to Markku Kanerva for his superbly intense and melodic guitar lines and solos. All in all another outstanding release from one of the rare musicians who has been able to maintain a remarkably high standard of quality over a lengthy and notable career.

by David Ashcraft, Published 1998-02-01

Filed under: New releases, Issue 14, 1997 releases

Related artist(s): Pekka Pohjoloa, Pepa Päivinen


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