Boomkat Product Review:
Sähkö comes through with the goods here - 'Electronic Works' is the first album to collect the (mostly 1960's) electro-acoustic material of Finnish composer Osmo Lindeman, one of the country's leading early vanguards. Including TV commercial stings for local brands, it's a set that can't help but remind us of Daphne Oram, Edgard Varèse and Tod Dockstader.
Lindeman was a classical composer and pianist who initially followed the expected route, working as a jazz player and penning romantic scores for a handful of Finnish films in the late '50s and early '60s. But after a period of experimentation, he became obsessed with electronic music, dedicating himself to the craft in 1968 and assembling a body of work that's been spoken about in hushed tones ever since. 'Electronic Works' is the first opportunity many many of us have had to interface with Lindeman's canon, and we can assure you it's a revelation. It doesn't take long to get started: 'Kinetic Forms' establishes the scene with 14 minutes of tape-damaged modular oscillations, sounding like a broken arcade machine scrubbing through its sound library until it splutters to a halt. Slipping from expressive washes of cybernetic sound into jerky, almost glitchy rhythms, Lindeman captures the delirious optimism of the era, sounding truly inspired by the possibilities of what today would be a relatively rudimentary setup.
'Mechanical Music for Stereophonic Tape' takes a similar path, but cuts the fluttering sequences into rough loops, adding reverb to enhance the flavor and disconcerting drones to create a nauseating contrast. Occasionally, Lindeman stops the sound with a punctuating crash, using these moments to denote a shift in register or tone, and by the piece's central movement he fixates on upper-register trills that sound like digital glass breaking over polished rubber. It's 'Variabile' that shows us Lindeman's range, veering closer to the electronically manipulated orchestral music that Edgard Varèse spearheaded in the early 20th Century, or the trailblazing work of Paris's GRM. Lindeman takes odd fragments of scraping strings and dramatic orchestral swells and splices them with foghorn electronics, building a sound that's terrifying and strangely contemporary. Elsewhere, 'Ritual' obscures a peculiar vocal chant with tape hiss and dripping, cavernous synth sounds, blurring the voices into a mucky fog until his glassy, ping-ponging bleeps cut through the spectrum.
The Finnish composer is a master of suspense, chiseling oscillator drones into ghostly echoes on 'Spectacle' and interrupting them with saturated, metallic scrapes, buzzing waves, tape-damaged voices and bubbling, proto-acid squiggles. And it's particularly novel to hear Lindeman's commercial work, that's no less challenging than his longer-form pieces. His sting for soda brand Sunkist is a delightfully odd 18 seconds of plodding bleeps and eerie stabs, and his slightly more substantial theme for Finland's national TV news is so queazy that we're dying to see what it would have actually played like. Like Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire, Lindeman was able to sneak the avant garde into the Finnish mainstream, using the unheard sounds of the future as a way to exercise his creative muscle. His most crucial material has been hidden away in the vaults for decades, so it's well beyond time to give Lindeman the attention he deserves. Phenomenal stuff.