Some records arrive that make you wonder if there is much value to writing about music. ‘Open’ by the Finnish ambient jazz partnership of reedist Tapani Rinne and composer/producer Juha Maki-Patola is one of those albums. Elusive, shivering with atmosphere, the immersive soundscape that the pair have crafted elevates listening beyond the incidental and reduces any review to the level of a prescription. Still I’m happy to dutifully fill out the script; this music is good for any soul.
Available on KEXP DJ Alex Ruder’s fervently introspective Hush Hush Records from March 11th, it’s remarkable that an album as intricate and intuitive as this happens to be the first collaboration between the two musicians. If you factor in that it developed remotely in a three month surge of activity, Maki-Patola and Rinne sharing files between their respective home studios, and the results on ‘Open’ are all the more extraordinary. As an emerging composer intrigued by spacious minimalism from Frahm to Richter and beyond, Maki-Patola has been steadily shaping his approach with two reflective releases on Hush Hush, ‘Breath’ and ‘Waves’. Still this hook up with the illustrious jazzer and saxophonist Rinne, a lynchpin of Finland’s irrepressible scene since the 80’s, signals a real step change driven by the vibrant connectivity between the two musicians.
To say that Rinne’s exceptional reed playing adds the colour while Maki-Patola’s electronic invention provides the foundation would be conveniently over-simplifying what’s going on throughout Open’s ten tracks. It’s the variation and subtlety in their interplay that is one of the album’s defining features. Take a track like ‘Leave’ where a gradual lapping keyboard pulse seeps into the sombre unfolding clarinet harmonies or the elegant tidal confluence between Maki-Patola’s electronica and Rinne’s droning reeds notes in ‘Fall’. In the elemental soundscape of ‘Still’ the balance between the two musicians merges even closer as they slowly explore the possibilities of a minimal variation, with the gentle organ and tonal complexity recalling Sarah Davachi’s more melodic pieces.
The atmosphere that drifts from the partnership on ‘Open’ appears both mythical and real at the same time. Although shimmering with floating electronica, ‘Distant’ feels somehow homely and warm, the chapel chords and restrained choral synths stretching out with a folky simplicity that hints of Early Music. Then there is the gently uplifting ‘Hope’ where Rinne’s breathy sax melancholia glides over a misty organ wash, the click and creak of his instrument ghosting into your sub-conscious. That commitment to never disguise the physicality of the sound making is laid down from the first whispering melodies of the opener ‘Brevity’ and is essential to the record. It gives ‘Open’ a real human presence, music with the calming power to transport the listener but which remains convincingly rooted in the notes played and the keys struck.
The record also has the personality to tug at other emotions. Part 1 and 2 of the title track sees Rinne and Maki-Patola exploring a more conventional exchange between saxophone and piano. Against a tingling looped backdrop, the minimal keyboard pattern marks the space for a yearning horn melody to tug at the heart strings with a Garbarek-like intensity. Then there’s the glacial closer ‘Hover’, a tune that glides through both highs and lows, balancing on the edge of its higher register before the swoop down to those bass notes. As the final understated sax line fades you’re left with a dreamy sense of wonder.
That’s not to say that Open’s prime achievement is its meditational capability. Sure it is a soundscape to get lost in, with a restorative power that’s difficult to convey in a track by track dissection. But there’s more than that, the time you spend with the album goes beyond relaxation or switching off, Tapani Rinne and Juha Maki-Patola create music for your imagination.
Pick up a copy of ‘Open’ by Tapani Rinne & Juha Maki-Patola from : https://hushhushrecords.bandcamp.com/album/open