Forest Systems

Intense, stark and beautiful record from Meriheini Luoto on her Metsänpeitto (LUOCD-01) record. She mostly did it solo with her violin, although she’s joined by Pizzicato Drops Orchestra, and individual contributions from collaborators Minna Koskenlahti who adds percussion and vocals on one track, and Mirva Soininen who contributes her voice on three others. It’s a composed work (Luoto is an Academy graduate) but one which is heavily influenced by improvisational techniques, and as an artists Luoto draws inspiration from a number of sources.

One thing which strikes you instantly about this record is its vivid sound; it was recorded using binaural techniques, including the “dummy head” made infamous on that weird krautrock record by Sand for instance [1. I mean Golem, originally released in 1974. It used the Artificial Head stereophonic effect, which I assume is the same thing.], and the listener is obliged to pay attention to the bleak and brittle sounds on offer. At times it’s as though we’re cornered, at other times we feel alone in a clearing where there’s no shelter and the wild beasts are circling in around us. Meriheini Luoto throws herself into her work; on part IV especially, there’s a sense that she’s dancing around possessed like a mad woman, so energetic and crazed are her violin swoops and swipes. Other parts of the suite however are less alarming, and if we can detect an inflection of folk-music tunes on part II, I think this is deliberate; the “story behind the album”, as she calls it, indicates her preoccupation with Nordic folk songs and stories, and the image of the forest kept cropping up in her research (along with latterday concerns such as scientific research and articles about the environment).

In seeking to evoke the “all-encompassing experience of the forest”, the debut concert performance involved a certain amount a stage-craft, hiding four other players in the balconies of the venue while she remained at the front of the hall. This unorthodox set-up created sounds whose sources were not immediately clear to the audience. Through a combination of craft and imagination (she was constantly thinking about a forest as she played), Metsänpeitto arrives at this unusual mix of “a silence with a sound”, and the intensity of her conviction brings the work to life in the mind of the listener. We are drawn in by the eerie beauty of the music, then find the forest walls closing around us; the word Metsänpeitto translates as “covered by forest”. Very glad to have received, and heard, this excellent piece of work. From 20 September 2017.