Review: Harmaa Getto ‘Ovenvartija’

Sometimes a record can come along and just leaves you wondering what you have listened to. I like to think that I listen to a broad church of music and I’m not afraid to step outside of my comfort zone and try new things. This has led to some of the more Avant Garde moments that pop up in my collection. I’m a big fan of the experimental side of The Mars Volta with their Jazz flavourings, the Dadaist lyrical constructs and the mind altering effect their recreational habits have taken on their approach to song writing; I like The Bronx side project Mariachi El Bronx and their Mexican tributes.

Harmaa Getto ‘Ovenvartija’

I say these things because for all my appreciation of Gnod, Hip-Hop and the like, Harmaa Getto’s latest album was definitely a left field step in terms of impact.

For those unfamiliar with the band they’re (currently) a four piece that was born from the ashes of a Finnish musical collective called Paavoharju via a collaboration between two of the members. This strange amalgam of ascetic Christians was formed by brothers Olli and Lauri Ainala and gained some critical acclaim between 2005-2008 playing psychedelic folk. Following their disbanding Lauri branched off with songwriter and trumpet player Joose Keskitalo to form the distorted Lo-fi Trip Hop experience that is Harmaa Getto.

Hardly what you would call prolific, the band released their first album Suomimorsiamen Pyhä Tie waaaay back in 2009 and finally a decade later they have swelled their ranks to release their second effort Ovenvartija.

Strangely disarming this is an album that drips with melancholy and distorted sounds and attempts to draw the listener into a world of their own creation. Seemingly taking solace in the legendary drinking culture of the Finnish people, this is an album that owes much to the corners of dimly lit bars and laments of the modern erosion of culture and civilisation. The press release states it’s like ‘Portishead tormented by alcohol withdrawal symptoms’ – I can’t argue with that.

Musically and vocally their latest album owes much to the additional members as Ovenvartija is awash with woozy electronic sounds courtesy of Juho Liukkonen and the playful spoken word/rap vocals of Revon Akan Poika. It’s an album of introspective folk, shuffling trip hop, world music flavours that shifts and morphs like a kaleidoscope of shimmering steel stringed guitars, samples, brush struck drums and mournful vocals.

It’s a laid-back, almost quietly understated experience that washes over the listener in a velvet caress of samples…

Despite the sound of that description, this is far from a depressing album.

It’s hard to describe (great take by a ‘writer’ there) as it reels in with a defiant charm that is captivating and almost other worldly. It is an entirely unique musical experience that is very much a product of its culture and the vision of the people who created it. Ovenvartija is serious, playful, simplistic and multi-layered often within spaces of a single track. Even not speaking the language, it’s easy to hear stories being built and feel the emotional weight of the piece.

It’s not often I get to the end of an album and I’m left scratching my head. It’s not often I repeat the process several times for review and still find myself reaching for what to say…

What I will say is that it’s not standard fodder for my review canon. There is no ringing doom, no blast beats, no tortured howls, hard hitting drums or desert dry, weed influenced lyrics. Harmaa Getto don’t worship at the feet of Tony Iommi. It’s a laid-back, almost quietly understated experience that washes over the listener in a velvet caress of samples and conversational lyrics, like you’ve been invited into a late night story telling session after a wake.

This is not an album for everyone, however if you fancy stepping out of the shadows of the blackest night and venturing into a bar down a back alley in a different culture, priming yourself with a large glass of strong beer and kicking back to let a culture, that may at first seem alien, wash over you, then Ovenvartija might just be the album for you.

Label: Svart Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp

Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden