As a big fan of Ólafur Arnolds, Jóhann Jóhannsson and Jon Hopkins, when you discover artists who make music in the same vain it’s very exciting – they’re so few and far between. This kind of Electronic/ Classical crossover (what could also be called Neo-Classical or if you’re being brazen BBC 6 Music Cool-Classical music) is so interesting, so multifaceted, cinematic and more often than not, spellbindingly beautiful, as is the case with the stunning new album from Helsinki based AHO.
The new album Odyssey is a sea of beautiful instrumentation, blending layers of analogue synth, dappled processed electronics and classical instruments which intertwining to create rich musical tapestries. Right from the opener ‘Orlando Maze Scene’, AHO very quickly introduces his unique musical approach. Opening with a reverb soaked modulating what can only be described as ‘electronic noise’ the track instantly flows into a gentle arpeggiator and pulsing synth chords before layers of wind and brass instruments slowly build a cinematic, melancholic. As the track progresses, layers of strings are introduced, bringing a dramatic intensity to the track.
A structure which continues on ‘You told me you love running do I started to run too’, AHO continues his sonic journey through mixed synthesis and classical elements, this time introducing a spoken word sample and a Stranger Things-esque arpeggiator which serves to give the track a driving pulse as layers of strings and piano dance around.
Track 3, ‘NAIVE NAIVE’ sees AHO unexpectedly introduce guest vocalist Spencer Krug (Wolf Parade) on a track instantly reminiscent of Japan’s ‘Ghost’. A wash of warming electronics cover the track under Spencer’s fragile vocal delivery as the track gradually builds towards an absolutely beautiful, emotional climax. Etherial and wonderful, this is a step away from the Neo-classical style of the albums opening tracks.
Followed by the equally etherial and affecting ‘BOXING’ which features Karina, AHO continues his journey into the experimental, synth heavy side of his repertoire. Four tracks tracks in, it’s clear that AHO’s musical ideas are on another level – he doesn’t fear experimentation, in fact quite the opposite, he clearly thrives and with absolutely stunning, shiver inducing results.
Elsewhere on the album ‘Rainfall’ takes you on a journey from its gentle, dark cinematic opening to a feverish synth heavy ending akin to Jon Hopkins. The new single ‘See Swallows Play’ is a more gentle affair, once again showcasing AHO’s uncanny ability to flawlessly blend electronics and classical instrumentation to create something more moving than the sum of it’s materials.
The albums closing two tracks ‘Muses’ and ‘La La La (Midsommar)’ bring the album to breathtaking, gentle, sun-kissed close, capturing the feeling of lying in a field as a summer breeze gently blows over you.
This is a stunning collection of tracks from an artist with impeccable skills as a producer and a composer. While the album is limited by it’s own stylistic soundscapes, often relying on pulsing arpeggiatorss to set the pac over a wash of instrumentation this is not in any way an issue – it’s gentle, beautiful music which doesn’t need to demand your attention, it’s overwhelming interlocking harmonies is enough o allow each and every track to shine.
Deserving of every success that comes his way, AHO’s new album Odyssey has all the likability of Jamie xx’s ‘In Colour‘ and all the musical emotion and complexity of Ólafur Arnolds ‘re:member‘. It truly is a work of art.