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  • Writer's pictureAndy Wors

Juha Kujanpää - 'Kultasiipi' ('Goldwing')

A couple of people have kindly said to us lately that they like Nordic Music Review because in addition to the more traditional indie bands and singer songwriters featured, we cover some fairly ‘unusual’ releases too. That did get me thinking slightly, because to me nothing is unusual, it’s just that most radio stations, websites and magazines cater for similar types of music. And from a live music perspective, whilst we might love our Bror Forsgens and Valslands at NMR, the unfortunate reality is that it’s not really practical or financially viable for music promoters to put on a gig for a combined orchestra and post rock band, which is also why we asked Sara Forslund to play in a small church in Liverpool, rather than booking Valsaland to play at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall….

So when Juha Kujanpää contacted us about his new album ‘Goldwing’ (‘Kultasiipi’ in Finnish) which combined progressive rock and Nordic folk, I didn't bat an eyelid, in fact I was clicking the enclosed links quicker than ever. It’s the 2nd solo album from the Finnish composer, who has worked with many different artists in Finland, and whilst its taken while for us to have chance to listen, it’s immediately had an impact as an interesting and in most parts beautiful album, which is well worth checking out - particularly if you like progressive and modern classical music.

The opening track ‘Paala’s Land’ sets the tone, combining all the styles of music we’ll get to understand as the album develops, the melodies are enjoyable and distinct and ideas re-used by different instruments – mainly violins rather than full strings which gives it an intense folk feel, But its actually the 3rd track ‘Impromptu’ which gets to me with a sumptuous piano and accordion opening, before the musical theme is played by lush violins with distant vocal harmonies, it is a simple enough concept but it is completely gorgeous, spellbinding and will warm your insides on the cold winter nights. A'ctually I see less progressive influences in this track, and just a composer writing beautiful music from the heart, and the sound has similarities with modern composers such as Max Richter. And its always a good sign when my progress reviewing an album is halted by an insistence to listen to a track over and over again, which has been the 'problem' with ‘Impromptu’, and right now it remains the highlight of the album.

But eventually I feel I’m able to move on with ‘Tapir King’ and suddenly we’re in a more distinct progressive world, this time with Steve Reich style rhythms backing madrigal guitar and string themes. I usually try and avoid referencing other artists when reviewing, but I can’t help thinking of Arch Garrison and the brilliant North Sea Radio Orchestra, even if this track is even more progressive in its structure (or lack of structure perhaps). ‘Coffee in Kuopio’ is a gleeful and jazz inspired dance, which reminds me of a slightly less manic version of some of William D Drakes work.

We continue the fun with ‘Into the Fire’, the most folk inspired track, but with an unusual twist, even if I’m not too sure about sudden introduction of drums half way through. And we end with another beautiful track, 'Goldwing' (reprise), with subtle uses of the theme in the previous track of the same name – this time delivered with the most delicate of strings, and it’s a clever understated end to the album.

Ok enough writing… the reality is that there’s so much going in Juha Kujanpää’s ‘Goldwing’ that I’m left almost overcome with thoughts, views and impressions. This is a seriously good album. This is modern alternative composition, influenced by a whole host of different artists and composers, as well as progressive rock. And let’s be clear, it works. It works so well that everyone should stop what they’re doing and go listen and buy ‘Goldwing’ right now. But I realise that is unlikely and that for many people, such a leap into different genres may be hard work and ultimately unrewarding – and you might not ever forgive me. But if you like unusual alternative music, the artists referenced in the review, or you know who the Alphabet Business Concern are, you will probably like this too. And for me, as a devotee of the ‘unusual’, I think this is utterly brilliant and a hugely enjoyable listen.

Nordic Music Review 9/10

The album is available through Eclipse Music, and the best place to get it is on this link:

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