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Tuomas Palonen – Tuomas Palonen (Palatsi Finland)

Tuomas Palonen-Tuomas Palonen
28 June 2018

As he did on his band Kuparilinna’s “enchanting and enlivening” self-titled 2016 debut LP, Helsinki’s pleasantly-voiced Palonen sings entirely in Finnish on this, his first solo full-length. However, aside from his familiar trill (and unfamiliar tongue, for most English speakers), the hushed, homespun folk he fashions on TP is far removed from his previous outfit’s punchier, ‘60s-inspired indie pop, surf, and psych rock. Indeed, the opening “Sarastus” (in English: “Dawn”) is like a soul-soothing, Asian-accented mood piece or tone poem, more suitable for demure drawing rooms than dingy rock clubs. On it, Palonen meditatively murmurs as if doing vocal exercises in front of a mirror, while a dim keyboard drone and Saara Olarte’s softly-stroked, wind chime-wispy harp provides the only accompaniment. The shimmering “Suljetuin silmin” (“With Eyes Closed”) is similarly serene, as Palonen sedately sings (actual words, this time) a tender tale over a ringing acoustic, brooding bass, and Seidi Guzejev’s sweeping violin surges; halfway through, he drifts into Hindustani-like intonations, while the sitar-evoking instrumentation adopts a more Middle Eastern/psychedelic aura. Next, the pastoral, picturesque “Haapain luona” (“Among Aspens”), featuring Otto Eskelinen’s whimsical, whistled flute, melds new age, Baroque pop, Celtic folk, and light prog in equal measure, making you feel like you’ve been dropped in the middle of one of Finland’s desolate, dew-drenched forests.

Elsewhere, both the off-kilter instrumental “Pälkänevesi” (named for a lake in Pälkäne, a popular summer destination two hours north of Helsinki) and the hummed “Hiljainen soutaja” (“Silent Rower”) have tranquilizing, clock bell-conjuring, tick-tock rhythms that would be perfect for putting patients under sleeping spells in a hypnotist’s office. The shuffling, six-minute-long “Olukkainen juomukkainen” (“Oh Mighty Beer”) is just as trance-inducing, as Palonen rapidly recites its traditional lyrics – likely taken from the epic Finnish poem The Kalevala, a work noted for its many references to beer and always sung in the same meter, stressing specific syllables – over an unswerving, Velvet Underground-evoking groove, and sporadically shaded by Heikki Tuhkanen’s warmly-toned trombone. (Tuhkanen’s stately horn also graces the noble, national anthem-esque “Tuulelle lauluni laulan,” or “I Sing For the Wind.”) Like I wrote in my Kuparilinna review, it would be nice to have a translated lyric sheet, to find out what Palonen’s singing about. But because the calming cadences of his vocals are often used like another instrument – as when he cantillates like he’s in a medieval church choir on the ghostly, Gregorian chant-mimicking closer “Paljon on kaunista” (“So Much Beauty”) – even Finnish-challenged listeners will find Palonen’s pretty paeans to the past charming and captivating. (