Oiro Pena ‘2’ 10″ EP (Jazzaggression) 4/5

Oiro Pena is Pentti Oironen’s, aka Antti Vauhkonen, solo, looped and overdubbed, spiritual jazz funbag. Or should I say it was? Since the last EP, Oiro Pena (a nickname bestowed upon Antti by drummer Aleksi Tanhuala) is no longer a solitary pursuit. It is growing into a small family unit with Keijo Koskenharju on bass/guitar/percussion and Joona Hulmi on piano for half of this 4-track, 350 copy limited, 10” EP.

Oiro Pena’s music has previously been labelled underground, outsider, low-fi, folky; also energetic, astral, psychospiritual, warm; and akin to Sun Ra and Moondog. Can’t really argue with any of that and If I was in a rush (and not obliged to meet a word count) that could easily be the review pretty much finished. But I’m not in a rush and I want to spend some time contemplating if Oiro Pena 2 is benefiting from its newly formed family ties.

“Teelukissa” is a campfire-warmed congregation of like-minded, closed-eyed, souls feeling the spirit lift and complete them. Swaggering flute (always a good thing) freely gambols as a flabby Koskenharju bass holds down a loose, yet angular, groove and percussion and balalaika sprinkle dizzy, compelling fervour.

“Awrir” continues the embracing Organic Music vibe with the flute acting as pied piper leading the gyrating laity of ektara, balalaika, bass and percussion as they build a rhythmic chant, twirling and whirling through imagined dusty streets. Sax then takes over at the pulpit, emphatic and eloquent, as a ganged Don Cherry vocal lifts the now humanised chant higher.

“Lof” is freer than the preceding tracks – it starts with a hauntingly beautiful Vauhkonen melody that expands and evolves over a lit up, astral-skied, modal workout that nods appreciatively at Trane. Piano and flute commune and explode, propelling us past the Clangers to happily revisit that passionate opening melody.

“Love and Marriage” is by far the most apt version of Van Heusen & Cahn’s tune I’ve ever heard. It’s old-timey clownish, messy, tipsy, vaguely discordant and hugely affectionate suggesting that Vauhkonen has either lived in matrimony (I love you, Nicky. x) or uber-empathically observed it. Hulmi’s piano solo is perfection, unapologetically bursting in through the saloon doors and disrespectfully downing peoples drinks before knocking over tables. It’s an uproariously incongruous end to this EP.

The sincere zeal of Oiro Pena 2 is infectious. It is deeply warm-hearted; fulfilling like a big hug from someone that you enjoy hugging you. It’s a coherent step on from the first EP too, benefitting from the extra 2 pairs of conferring hands. And I now hear that a further new sibling has arrived! – Oiro Pena’s forthcoming LP has the trio grow into a free-improvising quartet. Not only that but the idea of “Oirolan suku” (the Oiro Pena family), a bigger band, with harmonica and violin is something that Vauhkonen is “gonna look into”. All good news cos I, for one, look forward to hearing what his growing family creates next – not least because it’ll give me a warm, comfortable place to go when I need a big, low-fi, spiritual hug.

Ian Ward