Boomkat Product Review:
Genuinely oddball, off kilter compositions from psychedelic backwaters of Finland, courtesy of Kemialliset Ystävät collaborator Marja Ahti a.k.a. Tsembla. RIYL Madalyn Merkey, Tomuttontu, NYZ
“NNA is thrilled to present ‘The Hole In The Landscape,’ the latest full-length album by Tsembla. Based in Turku, Finland, Tsembla is the solo alias of musician Marja Ahti, a frequent collaborator of the Kemialliset Ystävät musical collective and one half of the electro-acoustic duo Ahti & Ahti. As Tsembla, Ahti creates vivid, imaginative compositions of sound and rhythm using electronics and treated samples of recorded acoustic instruments, objects, voices, feedback, and environmental sounds.
Following up the 2015 LP ‘Terror & Healing’ on the New Images label, Tsembla’s fourth full-length album ’The Hole In The Landscape’ combines melodic and rhythmic narrative with rough-edged sound collage, creating a sense of gravitation, forward movement and friction by contrasting weightlessness with density. At the heart of Tsembla’s compositions lies a distinctive and diverse palette of sounds, electronically processed and filtered to create a signature sound and feel with a unique sonic personality.
Across the album’s eight tracks, a tension between electronic synthesis and sampled acoustic sounds creates an inventive mixture of colorful playfulness and meditative starkness. Tsembla’s roots can be traced back to musique concrete, early electronic music, and other rhythmic electronic subgenres, but the final product is in a class of its own. The simplistic yet elegant use of melody is implemented thoughtfully to carry the delicate layers of electronics and samples along their voyage, uniting them into an abstracted whole.
The frenetic, psychedelic density of Kemialliset Ystävät can be heard in these tracks, though Ahti’s solo approach is more restrained and deliberate. Sounds are given enough space from each other to exist harmoniously alongside one another, with a tasteful amount of layering that allows the listener to focus on intentional clusters of brilliantly juxtaposed sounds, without feeling overwhelmed or bombarded. A distinct influence of music from all across the globe can be heard, beyond the usual western scales and instrumentation; woodwinds, strings, percussion and ancient sounds from all corners of the earth are electronically synthesized to create unpredictable textural twists and turns. These incredibly dynamic resulting textures stimulate the brain in unexpected ways, and the metaphor of sonic texture for organic geological formations can be both heard and felt in the exquisite detail that Ahti is able to conjure in these compositions.
As a thematic starting point, ‘The Hole In The Landscape’ takes the deep time of geological processes in contrast to the fleeting lifespan of the human mind and heart - the light fluctuations and deep dents of personal or collective thought and emotion, from the perspective of the slow formation of mountains built by shells, dead organisms or fossilized bacteria, and then carried away by wind or water. The idea of a hole in a landscape can manifest as a hollow desert rock formation, or a sense of personal or collective loss. In either case, there is an absence surrounded by presence. Loss carves a gap in our mental landscape, but simultaneously transforms what is left and infuses it with new meaning.
In step with these thematic properties, Ahti successfully implements her personalized sound to remind us that the unpredictable natural processes of the universe’s activity cannot be contained or controlled. However, through the instrument of creativity, we can take time in our brief earthly human existence to appreciate the aesthetic beauty and artful juxtapositions that are created as a result of this mystifying chaos, reminding us that absence can tell as much of a story as presence.”