Like all good promotional packets, the accompanying blurb for Orpokotijuhlat Saarella, Lauri Ainala’s debut solo output was full of talk of pedigree, history, and place. I was initially entranced and sold just on the description, yet upon a listen or two I intentionally scraped my mind of its contents. Sometimes an album is best when given its own context. Sometimes we need to write our own stories and histories to create the most unique experience for a new set of sounds. So it is with this, one of the most curious collections of sound to hit my inbox in recent weeks. I’ve been trying to think about how to capture this album with my words. With yesterday’s passing of experimental legend Pauline Oliveiros, I find myself in need of something to focus on. In the true fashion of deep listening, I’m going to share my personal experience with Orpokotijuhlat Saarella in the hopes that it might lead you to find your own.
Liturgical nostalgia and the hypnotic power of religious ritual seems to be the primary forces on these ten unnamed compositions. From the soulful droning of an organ to fragmented choirs creating wordless melodies, the album is interspersed with hints of ceremony and a darkness lurking behind the light. The source of sound always feels as though it’s coming from a distance, through a veil or calling out from a memory. The album’s trajectory is more consistent with movements of a greater piece than a series of separate songs, although many do have distinctive moods or qualities that allow them to stand as sonic portraits. The majority of Orpokotijuhlat Saarella seems to be manipulated patchworks of field recordings, with a striking juxtaposition of natural and human-made sound. Ancient voices reach through static and the crackle of dying fires. It’s akin to looking at faded photographs and imagining a fuller version of the environment contained within. There’s a sense of awe, of grandeur, and even melancholic remembrance. Is Lauri Ainala offering us a new approach or angle on art and sound here? Hardly. Still, the balance of tradition and innovation is beautifully honed and these songs have served as the backing track for much of my recent time spent in contemplation. Perhaps it will help you find your own path through the next time you’re lost in thought.
Orpokotijuhlat Saarella is available now from Svart Records on LP and CD. Fans of field recordings, dark ambient, and rolling drones should feel right at home with it.