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«Uusi Aika»

Uusi Aika is a new ensemble from Finland. This ensemble describes its self-titled debut album as organic and acoustic reflections of local folk music, Japanese sonic aesthetics, new age, early 20th-century art music, and jazz traditions, especially seminal sax players like Lester Young and Jan Garbarek. But there is more to Uusi Aika music. The slow, calm and highly melodic unfolding of this ensemble’s music brings to mind some deep abstract electronic music or experimental dub explorations at times.

The name of the band, The New Era in Finnish, refers to the period that covers the period from the 15th to the 16th centuries to the present day. Uusi Aika leader, reeds and shakuhachi player Otto Eskelinen wanted to form a band that would play music connected to free jazz, but with a distinctly gentle and melodic approach. The album Uusi Aika, recorded at Roihupelto studios in Helsinki in the spring of 2021, leans heavily to the calm and melodic pole, with Eskelinen’s caressing, breathy sax, clarinet and shakuhachi playing. Keyboards player Johannes Sarjasto adds a subtle cinematic touch, while double bass player Tapani Varis and drummer Amanda Blomqvist anchor the music with colorful rhythmic ideas.

You can hear in Uusi Aika strong echoes of seminal ECM albums – CoDoNa, Collin Walcott and, obviously, Jan Garbarek’s – now wrapped with impressionist, atmospheric keyboards. Like these ECM albums, Uusi Aika attempts to bridge between near and far folk traditions and creates its own compassionate sonic meditations, assisted by the modern studio, music-making techniques, sampling and tape effects. It works best on the last piece «Henget» where Varis’ bass playing and Antero Mento’s sitar-like zither sketch a sensual and exotic theme, gently abstracted by Eskelinen’s melodic alto sax musings.

Eyal Hareuveni  

Otto Eskelinen (as, shakuhachi, altocl, p, v), Johannes Sarjasto (p, synth, acc, v), Tapani Varis (b, v), Amanda Blomqvist (dr, perc, v), Antero Mentu (zither), Juho Luukkainen (tape eff)


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