Nuojuva: Valot kaukaa

Having retired his Ous Mal alias in 2011 with the remix collection Ous Mal Is Dead . . . Long Live Ous Mal, Finnish producer Olli Aarni rises from the ashes with a new moniker Nuojuva and Valot kaukaa, his first release under the name. The recording presents nine pieces totaling forty-six minutes in a dense ambient style that, at certain moments, is so blissfully meditative it verges on celestial. What keeps it from vanishing into the upper spheres are conventional musical sounds that tether it to earth, things such as vocals, piano, cello, flute, and violin. A wistful dimension is strongly felt in Nuojuva's settings and a rustic quality, too, but probably the best word to sum up Valot kaukaa is mystical.

The opening piece emerges out of a thick bed of vinyl crackle and hiss, bringing with it surging strings and harp strums and moving in slow motion. At this initial stage of the album, it appears that Aarni's focus is on a wide-screen brand of meditative ambient music wherein hushed vocals (Rachel Evans, known as Motion Sickness of Time Travel plus one-half of duo Quiet Evenings, contributes vocals to the project) and pianos (courtesy of guest Sophie Hutchings) placidly swim, an impression confirmed when the second track presents a similarly vaporous swirl of time-suspending ambient sound.

“Laakso” stands out as a particularly lovely setting where woodwind elements conjure a woodland feel, despite the fact that a thick layer of crackle almost renders them inaudible. Strings and Hutchings' piano also contribute to the setting's transporting aura, and words like transporting and dream-like are even more readily applicable to “Kesayossa,” a piece that seems to gently shiver as it soothes its listener with nocturnal stillness and bird chatter, and “Huominen,” a seemingly ancient folk lullaby that's as mournful as it is mystical.

Each piece appears to be built, to some degree at least, from crackle-encrusted vinyl samples, a move that lends the material a rickety character. That dusty dimension is offset, however, by the presence of freshly recorded instruments such as piano, percussion, and strings and an occasional field recording element. The cumulative effect of Valot kaukaa is of an ethereal, rather fairy tale-like music that feels as if it's not of any one time but rather something that's emerged out of the mist—it thus makes perfect sense that the album title roughly translates as “lights from far away.”

February 2012