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Olli Hirvonen - Kielo (Ropeadope)

10 November 2022

Though trained in jazz, with a master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music, guitarist Olli Hirvonen doesn’t confine himself solely to bebop on his fourth album Kielo. Accompanied by his longtime rhythm section of bassist Marty Kenney and drummer Nathan Ellman-Bell, the Finnish-born New Yorker gently but firmly swirls together musical colors derived from exotica, shoegaze, indie rock, jazz and Americana into a lush and dreamy palette. (Imagine Julian Lage recording for ECM.) On “Lento,” the axeperson strums gently strums pretty chord changes like he’s imitating ripples in the ocean, slowly building up to more vigorous riffs and the sound of waves crashing against the shore. “Erode” directly invokes dream pop in its drifting melody, but similarly falls off the edge of easy listening into the field of rock dynamics. A frisky cover of Big Thief’s “Vegas” lets Hirvonen fold in picking adapted from country rock into another plangent exercise in melody, while “Placeholder” pull all of his threads together into one gorgeous tapestry. Embracing the simple strumming of chords as often as single note lines, Hirvonen simply goes straight for plain ol’ musicality on Kielo, letting the tunes reign supreme.