We have a list of about a dozen albums we want to write about before we wrap up for the Festivities (if we were clever, I guess we'd work out a special '12 Albums of Christmas' thing), so we'll continue with the approach of trying to keep things fairly brief. First up is 'Cats of Transnistria', a band we've written about a few times, but I still never quite think we've given them the time they really deserve. Since their debut EP 'Away' was released back in 2015, the duo based around Tuomas Alatalo and Henna Hietamäki, have released 2 full length albums, and in their latest album 'Aligning' they have once again been joined by violinist Sanna Komi.
'Aligning' has been on pretty much constant repeat sine it was released just over a week ago. It has such an incredible depth to it, layers of instruments and electronica that somehow all intertwine until an overwhelming and totally absorbing texture sound is created, with the most beautiful moments of melodic expression peeking through. 'Mountain High' is the 1st of 6 tracks, 8 minutes long and built around one chord, but the beauty of the song being so great that you won't notice, and it paints vivid pictures of our natural surroundings, powerful yet still intimate - just listen to the sound of the guitar in the latter part of the track, which seems to come from the depths of the earth. 'Vampire' builds slowly, with a beautiful melancholy melody courtesy of Henna Hietamäki', but I love in particular the brooding intent of the guitars just over 2 minutes in to the track.
We wrote about the startling 'Born Again' previously, whilst once again in 'The Light' that I'm totally drawn to the depth and variety of sounds that are offered - everything seems to be in perfect equilibrium, with the distant vocals balancing perfectly, and again the visions it creates are vivid and thought provoking. 'Wild Herbs' will take you back out into the natural world, to an extent the guitar accompaniment creates a simpler structure, and the violin contribution rich in texture yet delicate too. They end with 'Aligning' itself, 9 minutes of beautifully constructed sound, swelling and then fading gradually until just the faintest of noise can be heard.
In a world where everything is completely off kilter, from environmental destruction to despots heading democracies, for some reason 'Aligning' seems pretty much the perfect antitode to everything - an overwhelming, all consuming musical and almost visual experience, where every sound and silence is given equal status, and where each listen will offer something different. 'Aligning' is a stunning achievement by 'Cats of Transnistria', both in its writing, performing and production, balancing influences from shoegaze rock to ambient electronica, and built to a post rock scale. It is undoubtedly one of our highlights of a fantastic year of Nordic album releases.
Nordic Music Review 8.5/10