One of my good friends recently described to me a moment he had with his son in which his son hurriedly removed a cartridge from the Super Nintendo and the screen got stuck on a glitched loop. It might have looked something like this. He described it as being quite beautiful and wished he had recorded it. Finding beauty in accidents like that is a wonderful thing. The painter Francis Bacon once said that “I want a very ordered image, but I want it to come about by chance.” On Olli Aarni’s most recent release he does just that in composing layers of found, performed, and invented sounds into an album that in some ways seems like it came about “by chance.”
Aarni’s appreciation of the aesthetic qualities of found sounds is clear immediately after reading the brief liner notes of Pohjoisen kesä, in which he lists the fuzz from an FM radio as the first element:
Oulu, Helsinki & Tallinn
FM radio, wine glass, tapes, etc.
Recorded with one hand
I recently corresponded with Olli about the process of making this tape. He started by describing a skateboarding accident that broke his hand and left him without much to do and an obtrusive plaster cast. Olli said, “I decided to travel North to my hometown to hang out with my friends and family and I packed a very minimal setup of musical equipment in my backpack. I recorded sounds from the radio to old tapes and started to form a piece of music out of them. I also tuned a crystal wine glass with water and played that. Most of this record was made on my parents' front porch when the weather was nice (it was an especially cold and rainy summer). In the end of the month I played this stuff live in Helsinki and Tallinn and I recorded the shows and used little bits of that in the final mix. The record was basically completed from beginning to end during the three weeks I had the cast on, which is exceptionally fast way of working for me, but I felt it had to be done like this. In the final mix-down I was able to use both hands.” He went on to say that the album could be compared to his experience of “watching the short and much awaited summer from outside, the certain melancholy of the beautiful summer surrounding you but not knowing what to make of it.”
At times while listening to Pohjoisen kesä (which translates to “Northern Summer”) I start to imagine that my plastic walkman is expanding – taking both reels of the cassette and spreading them farther and farther apart while it is playing. The tape sounds like it is being stretched so thin it is barely holding together. You can hear the faint wind and rain from that “Northern Summer” dissolve into soft warm synth tones on one side of the tape. The reverse side is even less distinct, primarily made up of a long grainy drone with what sounds like overlays of that tuned crystal wine glass. Each composition decays and warbles as the ambience gathers from one spool to the next, flowing across a 15-minute, sidelong grainy murmur until blissfully fading out.
Enjoy the download - I’d also recommend picking up his recent Avant Archive release, which is available both digitally and physically on cassette. Thanks, Olli.