CD, Kenola Music, 2005
New Tools, the debut effort from this Finnish duo, see-saws between light atmospherics and upbeat electronic pop. Meditative soundscapes give way to bright riffs on a round-trip journey to Newearth and back. When it lacks in production value, it makes it up in eccentricity.
The sojurn being taken today will not be traversed by rocket. There won’t be emergency exits, no radar, not even airbags. As soon as “What a World” kicks things off, it becomes clear that our vehicle is no technical marvel. The synthesizers sound amazingly comparable to the display models anyone can bang on at the local electronics store. Furthermore, it starts slowly, as if going uphill, gaining no momentum before reaching the summit, but then cruising briskly toward the end of the trail.
The first two tracks, bizarre pop tunes, are anchored by strong keyboards and peppered with accent-heavy English lyrics clearly written by someone who speaks another language much more fluently.
And then there’s the matter of the trombone.
The album gets its uncommon feel from Antti Hermaja and his ability to play several live instruments, most notably the trombone. A bit disconcerting at first, his skilled and creative ad-libs help to weave a unique composition, eventually charming the listener.
The album comes alive with “Drive.” Keyboard riffs that could have been penned by Giorgio Moroder find a foothold in the thoughtful guitar work and understated trombone. An instrumental, the listener is left to discover the music without the distraction of the usually forgettable lyrics. Then, rising up from the background, comes “Newearth”. This truly shines as the jewel of the album as its swelling keyboards and cosmic feel ensnares and entrances before bleeding into “Butterflies,” a prog-rock tune featuring Janne Lappalainen doing his best Roger Waters impression.
Although a bit awkward at the beginning, New Artist (an unfortunate name) eventually finds their niche and saves what could have been a disastrous first effort. However, these songs were meant to be heard live, no question. From the meandering trombone solos to the heart-swelling, hand-clapping denouement of “Return,” New Tools seems much more suited to the stage than to the laser-eye of a CD player.
— Brett Anthony