It is pretty much impossible to classify the music of Finnish collective Kemialliset Ystävät. I might say its style is kind of psychedelic, appears to be predominantly electronic, and has exotic elements, but half the time I can’t even tell what is generating the sounds on latest album Alas Rattoisaa Virtaa: Live instrumentation? Sampling? Synthesizer? Voice? You could say it is a mash-up of world music (particularly from the Far East), krautrock, chiptune, and plunderphonics, but in the end I’m not comfortable isolating any one of those (micro)genres. Ultimately, Alas Rattoisaa Virtaa is sui generis – the style is Kemialliset Ystävät’s alone.
The result is an ironically whimsical experience. Alas would be the perfect soundtrack for a Hayao Miyazaki movie – images of Spirited Away and Porco Rosso filled my head, well before the oinking pig samples that come in at the end of the clap-led centerpiece “Vettä Yarahille.” A few more of my favorite moments are the initially boisterous and later moody “Arkistorotat/Risuilla Täyteyssä Salissa,” the clanking and marching “Naderbux & Sundergrund,” and the ethereal “Hetkinen,” which I swear sounds exactly like part of the Spirited Away soundtrack. I wish I could, as usual, lay down a bunch of interesting genre descriptors to posit an idea of the aesthetic and pique your interest. But I hope my inability to do so for this LP will have the same enticing effect. I’ll try one last film allusion: if there were a Studio Ghibli-produced adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, this would be the score.
- From my joint Ultima II Massage / Alas Rattoisaa Virtaa review for The Arts Fuse