A warning for proggers: this album has addictive effects, but it is not
classifiable as pure progressive rock. I can only say that this album
has remained during weeks and weeks in my CD reader, and that every day
I must listen to it to feel better.
Tenhi is a wonderful Finnish group that started in 1997. It is formed by Ilkka Salminen (guitars, voices and drums), Ilmari Issakainen (bass, guitar, piano, and percussion), Tyko Saarikko (keyboards, guitar and voices), and violinist Eleonora Lundell, with the collaboration of Veera Partanen (flute). So far they have published a mini-CD "Hallavedet" (1998) and in 1999, their new album "Kauan".
How could I define Tenhi? Let us imagine a puzzle of 1000 pieces, which are in turn a combination of many other puzzles and smaller pieces. In this case, the pieces that mix endlessly are ambient music and Scandinavian folklore -Hedningarna, Dead Can Dance, Steve Roach -, the softest pagan metal -Empyrium, Anathema, Elend, Haggard -, progressive rock -Tangerine Dream, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Anekdoten -, dark folk -Hagalaz Runedance, Nature and Organisation, Current 93 -, and contemporary minimalist classical music -Part, Kancheli, Glass, Takemitsu-.
Mix all these styles in a cocktail shaker (adding drops of coldness, autumn and Nordic landscapes) until we cannot identify none of them, and the result becomes closer to the melancholic and majestic sound of these masters of sadness. Tenhi delights us with a dreamy music, loaded with romantic shades and ambient sounds, that transports us in time to the pagan and mystic Finland, in direct contact with its forests, lakes and mountains.
The album begins with "Näkin Laula" (ah, these boys sing in Finnish), a sweet song, like a lullaby, in which we appreciate influences of the most romantic progressive rock (ballads of Camel or King Crimson, Italian prog -Celeste's calm melodies, Banco, the first Finisterre -, the amazing Itoiz) in the crystalline sound of acoustic guitars. The keyboards and drums move slowly, with an slowed-down rhythm, while the singer whispers and seems to die with a cracked voice.
The second song is a ballad "Huomen", full of emotion, led by a soft acoustic guitar to which a calm drum marks the rhythm of the song and some smooth ambient keyboards join, until from amongst the fog, the serene voice of Ilkka recites a psalm, a song to the nature. After an instrumental passage dominated by the keyboards, we return to the acoustic guitar that cradles us during one minute, until the end. A marvellous piece.
The third song "Revontulet", an instrumental, changes the atmosphere, with a much more energetic acoustic guitar, until the irruption of the violin takes us to a spiral of sound in which we find echoes of the best Nordic and Celtic folk. After a brief interlude where keyboards and a beautiful guitar slide (a la Quicksilver Messenger Service or Spirit) take the lead, we return to the spiral that finally ascends and deposits us in the stars.
"Hallavedet" is based in a nice keyboard melody that combines with the dreaming voices of Illka and Tyko, to which the acoustic guitar adds then beautiful passages. This piece reminds me of the slow moments of Banco del Mutuo Soccorso and the best Sinkadus, Anglagard or White Willow. In the middle of the song, an excellent instrumental interlude of acoustic guitar and keyboards guides us to the final passage, where the melodies and vocals of the beginning are recaptured.
Maybe one of the best pieces in the album, in my opinion, is "Etäisyyksien taa", another instrumental song. It begins with an acoustic guitar marking the entrance to a passage in which keyboards and a really celestial violin acquire relevance. Classical music and folk walk hand by hand with the softest and more relaxed prog rock. After another acoustic guitar lead, percussion and violin indicate us the way to darkness, to a mysterious forest in which all kind of dangers haunt us. But the guitar returns, illuminating the darkness and defeating evil.
In the wonderful "Lauluni sinulle" rhythm picks up, becoming more aggressive and changing. Some ethereal keyboards draw the musical core of the song. Then, as vocals are added together with acoustic guitar, the pace gets quicker and reminds us of the best Anekdoten or the most Gothic moments in Anathema and My Dying Bride.
My favorite piece, "Taival", begins with an structure and texture directly emanating from "The Good Son" by Nick Cave. The voice and beautiful tribal percussion transport us to other countries, and the addition of the acoustic guitar is majestic. It is the key moment, the world wakes up, sounds become little by little more luminous, the morning comes, the nature is reborn announced by a piano, the sun sets in.
The last song "Souto" is an ambient piece, driven during eight minutes by a minimalist piano in parsimonious scales over a frame of keyboards that seem sometimes to wake up of the nightmare, but are finally unable to do it. Darkness comes back, even if we thought we had escaped from it. The piano finally releases all its weight, discharging tears of desperation. A really suggestive and sad piece that reminds me of the sound of Philip Glass and Arvo Part, sprinkled with water drops of Tangerine Dream, Popol Vuh, or even the last album of Current 93.
In summary, I hope to have convinced some of my beloved readers to try and listen to this amazing group, halfway amongst different styles, but with a progressive core that mankes it clearly worthy of your attentive listening.