Kuusumun Profeetta (“Moon Fog Prophet”) frontman Mika Rättö – also familiar from Finnish Kraut-Space-Boogie colossus Circle – is a genuine one-off: a musician who creates consistently compelling work whilst refusing to take things entirely seriously. Catering to audience expectations is also low on the list of priorities, a brave stance to take in a country which has as miniscule a market for music of marginal persuasion as Finland.
This uncompromisingly adventurous, mischievous attitude to music-making has led to some unforgettable moments: who could forget gigs like the one in Helsinki back in the early ’00s when Kuusumun Profeetta recreated the hazy psych-folk whispers of their early albums as denim and leather-sporting epic metal anthems to a club full of open-mouthed, unsuspecting fans. On the flipside, Rättö and co’s keen taste for exploring the outer regions of experimentation has at times led the band down some ponderous side tracks. Although never boring, they have occasionally appeared more concerned with adding further layers of intricate complexity to an already challenging concoction than focusing on satisfying songcraft.
Scaled-down, slow-burning and solemn, the more economic approach unveiled on Huutoja Hiljaisesta Huoneesta (“Screams from a Silent Room”), which sets out to woo the listener gradually instead of bombarding them into submission with a resistance-battering display of sonic firepower, produces startlingly beautiful results. The gently throbbing musical interplay, enchanting warmth and rich attention to alluring detail resembles the hushed majesty and epic but sparingly used canvases of Lambchop, albeit with the Nashville collective’s quiet country-soul grandeur replaced by Rock with various prefixes – Folk, Post, Psych – attached as the needs of the tune at hand dictate.
Taking in tracks like the gently pulsating opener ‘Malja Elämälle’ (“A Toast for Life”) or ‘Kellonsoittaja’ (“Bellringer”), an outstanding, hypnotic soft-focus Prog-Folk-Rock odyssey built on sparkling keyboard splashes, spidery bass lines, close-miked vocal harmonies and drowsily interlocking duelling guitars (starring new member Harri Sippola, formerly of sadly disbanded Finnish Post-Rock champions Magyar Posse), is like watching a feather float slowly in a gentle breeze or sinking into a hot bath after a dosage of something that bends the harsh edges of reality ever so slightly… only a lot, lot, LOT more exhilarating. ‘Sataa Lumi Maahan Hiljaa Ja Varhain’ (“Snow Falls, Silent and Early”), a moving depiction of loneliness set to the band’s most graceful melody yet, even sounds like the kind of shimmering gem hipper radio stations might like to consider for heavy rotation.
Mind you, this is still an eccentric bunch. The compositions are allowed to sprawl out at a leisurely pace. Rättö remains one of the most singular voices around, although he’s more interested in crooning softly than showcasing the contorted shapes his vocal chords can bend into this time around. Non-Finnish speakers (ie most of us) miss out with the lyrics, which remain shrouded in mystery, seemingly stuck halfway between hazier regions of reality and some murky, nearly-forgotten past of myths and legends. But you don’t need to understand what the songs are about to appreciate the superb quality of this music: for the first time, Kuusumun Profeetta aim equally for the heart and the head. Even the odd throwback to the epic outpourings of the past – most notably the majestically mournful ‘Isännätön Jättiläinen’ (“Giant Without a Master”) – packs a new-found elegiac grandeur. The result is an excellent record that deserves to hop clean over the language barrier and gain international renown for this remarkable outfit.