Tampere-based Nokia’s engineer Mika Rintala debuted in mid-1990s, but for years remained an unsung hero of DIY circuit electronics. But recognition finally came. His preference for often bulky analog devices set him apart from the generation of digital manipulators and yielded unusually temperate, alluringly corpuscular auralscapes.
Elements of his compositions appear modular. Under moniker Verde, Rintala frequently incorporated inspiring field recordings. His injections of such material are unusually mellifluous, eschewing the pitfalls of the familiar extrema: the dogmatic lessons of musique concrète and the showy interjections so typical of sound expansions in contemporary pop music.
The utilization of self-made devices and hybrid instruments led him to experimentation with sonic capabilities of home appliances. And yet, the results are invariably warm and well-rounded – unlike anything achieved by Anglo Saxon post-industrial combos of the early 1980s.
Rintala has been active in other Finnish formations, not least the neo-kraut apostles Circle and post-funk amalgam Ektroverde.
Paskaralla kolmen metrin kulmakarvat
The opening guitar chords hang loosely in a somewhat Gallic manner. This unassuming introduction dusts off the memory of Ilitch’s and Philippe Doray’s classics, but it’s the hoarse trombone solo that refocuses our attention. Handled with grace by Markku Veijonsuo, the valve pace is steady, unhurried, relaxed. A throaty electric guitar instantly broadens the increasingly spacious limits, with effects evoking the Fripp and Eno’s operations. Close to the top of its natural range, the trombone assumes a secondary role, snaking with agility among the ever denser guitar oscillations, probably courtesy Jyrki Laiho.
Veron saa maksaa ensimmäisenä arkipäivänä
Birds chirp and chickens cluck in this, somewhat tentative, juxtaposition of sequenced ‘cosmic’ glissandos and natural sounds. Another layer of electronics unconvincingly saturates the images of bucolic muck with children’s voices. A resolution comes with deformed scat intervention, masterfully morphed into the sound of muted cornet. Recurring buzz keeps us company, ensuring continuity and the unsettling cornet/scat transmutations reverse seamlessly. The sequenced reliability of the electronic bleeps ushers in lithe, serene notes from a crisp acoustic guitar. Were it not for the ‘scat’ and ‘zibilant’ woozing, the sequence could be even categorized as dreamlike. Somewhere, lurking in the shadow, a grippy fraction of electric guitar is lying at the ready, never to be utilized.
More forest warble and playground din fuse with ethereally distant folk songs. Summertime furikin chimes successfully sustain the atmosphere of sun-drenched ‘farniente’. But all too soon a gusty rhythm machine and tube-emulated guitar crash in on this premature ode to relaxation. A brilliant chromatic harmonica (Yrjänä Sauros) enhances the game of contrasts, aided by a liquid guitar solo of quasi-Rypdalian quality. The oral manipulation of harmonica’s edges leads to disturbing pitch bending. The tempo is hasty, propelled by the pulsing rhythm machine.
The title track begins with a scale testing on an unidentified string instrument (a high-resonance zither? Or is it a harp?). After an intermezzo of environmental sounds (crockery and a meowing feline), a sequenced sweeping sound offers plush surrounding to whispered recitation. Delicately brushed cymbals, zither strings, electronic shuffling and occasional electric organ ensure that we never tire of the ever-changing tapestry. Throughout, a muffled trumpet brings back a definitively ‘retro’ ambience. The organization of the composition and its calligraphic motif carefully balance between illustration and abstraction, reminding me of Area’s “Citazione de George L. Jackson”, even though Verde’s voice treatment is less invasive. Prepared piano keys and impromptu woodpecking close the passage on a high note.
Kalvosinnapeilla voi tehdä vaitukutsen
Preparative checks on some rudimentary machinery elicit little more than jingle-like inanity. Luckily, a colossal arsenal of martial drums brings a shift in the mood, connoting a sense of solemn determination. Short excerpts of spoken phrases cut into this fabric, as shreds from the intro are being revisited in ever fading loops. The fleet drumming is parched and – despite some time modulation – never overwhelming. The guitar lines endure, ribboned together with downy electronic softness. The author mutters something almost word by word, depriving the message of regular speech rhythm. The result is painfully human.
Exploratory guitar hesitations interact gently with electronic blanketing. Somewhere, a door opens; an abandoned house? Groping for clues, we identify broad reflection of heeled footsteps. Rintala’s rain stick and disciplined Latin shakers await the walking figure. The acoustic guitar/electric organ “duo” develops a circulating, directionless theme comfortable in its autumnal languor.
After an accumulation of captured effects (chicken, flapping wings, phone dialing) the terrain is hijacked by sequenced rhythms. Additional elements confuse the expected order in mid-beat.
Fluid, sensual keyboard intro gives way to acoustic guitar advances. Note by note, the guitar overlays scanty forms, unhurriedly, despite some snuffing and sniffing around. Against the background of rustling textile, the guitar noodling gradually betrays its goal – the attainment of a quintessential Appalachian moment. Bolstered by an unlikely electro-beat, the guitar finally pronounces its first micro-twang. Then, in spite of the intensifying sequencing, the rural folk-blues comes out in full color. Uninvited, a somewhat hooliganish electric guitar descends on-beat, as if to disperse the youthful crowd which somehow manages to intersperse its noisy games. Setting the scolding and altercation aside, the guitarist remains true to his geographic aspiration.
A reverberating voice and empty clapping would, in other circumstances, smack of artistic desperation. Instead, this solo ‘performance’ is but a joke, completely detached from the core of a track that attempts to demythologize circuit electronics. It is difficult to dispel here the images of Tom Dockstader or Ruth White. A hypnotically disorienting rhythm drives up, gearing up the tempo runs. But, as it gets denser, its defining rhythmic role is lost within a dispersed pandemic of sputtering effects. Rintala does not dwell in abstraction for too long. His toolkit delivers watery gulps and birch clipping, each of varying frequency, as if determined by the physical distance. The track ends with a dose of early 1980s’ post-industrialism.
External global error
A cantata-like piece owes its archetypical character to the venerable Hammond Organ. As cosmic blankets shift in and out, Rintala gives a proof of good taste by avoiding clutter and overbuilding of layers. Sibilant values oscillate, occasionally muscling up the volume. When short frequency ‘aviary’ singing turns out to be electronically generated, the familiarity of ring modulators is striking. Not surprisingly, the entire track has a feel of long lost experimental sci-fi ventures from the late 1950s to early 1960. Thankfully, no direct clichés surface.
Laakkosella takaluukun maalaus 900 euroa
What begins as bass-électronique stomping with instant electro-percussive responses is completely transformed by Sauros’ sculptural harmonica playing. This time, he conjures up Morricone-style poetic parables. Such contextualism is unavoidable in this masterful counterpoint of the hermetically recurrent bass and the bereaved harmonica mood. Sputtering meta-recordings are interwoven, but their representative function is either accidentally blurred in the ubiquitous crackles or was never intended in the first place. When the harmonica is gone, a progression worthy of Richard H. Kirk ploughs on without interrogation.
Arvokas kamelinkarvatakki lämmittää pakkasella
An elderly-sounding recitation adopts here a quasi-percussive form. Accompanying metals and woods tinkle, fart, whistle, resonate, grumble and rattle. Only after a while does an identifiably musical instrument appear – an electric piano. The exchange of views between the oft-absent narrator and silence-enamored pianist generates non-sequiturs and impasses adorned by bells, cymbals and flutter.
In a manner foreshadowing collaborative CD “Tower”, three pillars of band Circle join Rintala in this prime example of Finish neo-kraut folk. Jyrki Laiho, Jussi Lehtisalo and Mika Rättö begin with deceptively aimless, ‘hippy’ drumming. Soon the guitar figure becomes resolutely mantric, letting the second guitar lay over hypnotic shreds. Shaking, drumming and hummed vocalizing all add up to the image of an old hippie commune. And yet the workshop is highly professional. Lehtisalo’s dizzying agility slides over the elliptic infrastructure in what is probably the most instantly recognizable melodic element on this album. By the time a second guitar chisels (and then dismantles) these basic structural elements, listeners may revel in their most mesmerizing of space rock recollections. Naïve shakers and plastic boxes add some extra charm to this well executed collection.
VERDE: “Musical For Cats” (1997)
VERDE: “Traffic Light” (1999)
VERDE: “Modern Electronic Circuits” (1999)
VERDE: “Acib” (1997-2000)
VERDE: “Asill” (2000)
VERDE: “Lokki” (2001)
VERDE: “Karhun epäillään paskantaneen golfkentälle“ (2002)
VERDE: “Live“ (2003)
VERDE: “Vuoronumero” (2003)
VERDE & CLAY FIGURE: “Kalliopora“ (2003-04)
VERDE: “Kato internetist” 2CD (2005)
VERDE: “Legenda“ (2005-06)
CIRCLE feat. VERDE: “Tower“ (2006)
The positions listed prior to “Vuoronumero” are mentioned here for documentary purposes – I have not heard any of them. Of the last 5 recordings, “Kato Internetist” is probably the most accomplished, if a little sprawling affair.