These four Finnish pioneers fill a lot of space on Hypnosis, which for me was unexpected. I had assumed something more abstracted, minimal and cold, but there is a closer collaborative warmth, and conversational interplay, which keeps the record away from pretension and being exclusive. Featuring sax, trumpet, double bass and percussion, the palette is small, but the strokes broader and more descriptive. Notably, there is also not a sense that Lyytinen is leading on saxophone, but rather can be positioned more as a mediator and co-conspirator. The fact that no one player in the four takes the limelight shows this as a tight, effective orkesteri.
The feel of the seven tracks maintains a rather regular sensibility. No one track raises its head above the rest or sticks out as if showboating. I don’t mean this as a negative, but as a nod to the consistency of Hypnosis. Even the opening fizzing and crackling of the percussion of “Feeniks” is assimilated into the flow of the record. Moving from terse and irritated rhythm into a smoother, gravelly, and traditional (even pastoral) harmonic realm, there is evidently great consideration in the performances. Following this, “Teknojazz” reminded me of Yoko Kanno with stuttering bass and almost military drumming. Abject trumpet and sax are both hopeful and restless, the former taking a freeing let’s-go-to-space sort of route and the latter grunting and fussing about being left on our dying planet.
If there is a shift tonally, it is from track three onwards. There is a monastic threat in “Polynesian Prayer” that insinuates relax but grinds harmonic dissonance in the background with a feverish tension. I’m not altogether sure of any of the concepts behind the tracks, but “prayers” and “hypnosis” and “multidimensions” could mean many things from literal interpretation to aesthetic wit. Whatever the suggestion the group meant with these concepts, I find them appealingly menacing and suspicious. “Multidimensional Banquet” was like a modern jazz interpretation of The Titfield Thunderbolt, janky machines that are made for several purposes (some dark) and never explicitly clear. From another percussive opener, it raises to a compelling ride-along that is like sitting on a hill of punky ants with the horns buzzing around a repeating A section like an urgently drunk mosquito.
“Hypnosis” is a more expansive, gazing-at-the-frontier type piece where the bass takes hard, percussive insistence. It isn’t struggling to be heard and has no lack of confidence, like a lot of bassists seem to have in smaller ensembles. The hypnosis is not so much comforting, or deceptive, or oppressive, but suspicious and fleeting. More reverie than coma.
The trumpet and saxophone interplay over the tracks can be best described in “Rhodiola Rosea” with loping cascades of tightening and loosening harmonies. There is a joyful testing of the limits of what both players can do to keep the passages making sense unto themselves. For me, this track was the most flamboyant and cheering with its quaint phasing.
Winding down (or up), “Message from Utopia” opens with the doom-laden calls of a pissed-off cruise ship, developing into an unnerving itch, which then catapults the passenger into a fully-fledged P&O riot. The bar is being raided by roseate skinheads, clamouring for Bacardi, the cars have shucked their restraints and skate the garage deck, there are no more anaemic chips at either of the two shockingly unclean canteens and the smoking areas are clogged with a thousand final gasps, squinting at a coastline through a merciless incoming wind. Just the one-way-ticket.