Love these guys. Just love them. This is a bubbly, ecstatic mess of an album, in every good way… It’s all over the place; a dig around a wet pit of transcendentalism, an overflowing tub of funny jelly.There’s moments where the Ghost Box almost appears (in fact a few of the melodies resemble the chord progressions and gentle hauntological swotting/swatting of Concretism) but these moments are always derailed; even the echos and trails at the end of some of the long notes seem full of chattering spirits, laughing gnomes, trillions. Pianos appear, get lost in electrics; odd Wu Tang karate grunts and twitches appear briefly in the background, gulped by trolls; elongated electronic howls jump in and out of mechanical music boxes; these ballerinas are children of the chemical underground, burst knees full of serotonin deposits, spinning like a slow Sufi. Some tracks fall into the imagined genre zone of mediæval electro, others are clearly plainsong for machine elves. Everything in this album gets itself into a right pickle.
I’m struggling with this. It’s not something that lends itself to description. It’s not something that finds itself easily represented. It lies to you and makes you laugh and throws so much at your brain that you need time to pick it apart. It needs unthreading perhaps but for that you’d need a half-decent dose of acid. It reminds me vaguely of being young and playing three Shamen albums at the same time and hoping that the LSD would figure it out for me. Clue: it sometimes did.Jan Anderzén and his group of merry munkins claim to celebrate the “transcendental power of ecstatic music” and in Alas Rattoisaa Virtaa they’ve nailed it. I like a lot of Kemialliset Ystävät’s music but this is perhaps my favourite thing they’ve done; it’s just so joyously unhinged. The press release suggests it’s like an “orgy of light” and it really is; it’s utterly colourful, almost synaesthetic. There’s aspects in this of art being surrendered; you say it was a kind of Pop Art collage, a Rauschenberg/Koons sandwich, if that didn’t sound so lame, so dully reminiscent of all those tape artists from the ’80s. This isn’t The Tape Beatles; this isn’t stealing soundworlds, this is a soundworld. This is playing in a childish way, in the best way. No doubt some of these people can actually, technically play their instruments but this is playing with them.
Like a lot of their stuff, it sounds like the country, feels part of the trees and the landscape but it also careers into the town and the city, and is awash with life and choice and the existential nausea of being. The freedom here is overwhelming; it always wins. Your only option is to hang on for the ride. It’s transcendental in the sense only that there’s always another corner; it’s like a garden of forking paths, if Borges chuffed some happy fungi and found himself inside a Bridgwater fairground (look it up and never, never go). It’s delirious and not afraid to be a little dumb at times; it’s sometimes naïve in its refusal to be accommodated, a refusal to be Boards of Canada (I love BoC but they aren’t this and wouldn’t even think of being this; this would be beyond them).You’re not going to hear this on a movie soundtrack or a TV show (I would love to see that movie, I’d watch that show). This doesn’t allow itself to be other. It even allows itself to be kind of annoying in parts but then jumps ship and starts a fight in another direction altogether.
It’s been four years since Kemialliset Ystävät released an album and it is the album we’ve been waiting for. You can now rejoice. Hang on, hang on, hang on.