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Kemialliset Ystävät
Alas Rattoisaa Virtaa Sean Kitching , October 2nd, 2014 10:32

Last night a Finnish freak-tronica band saved my life... Well, in actual fact it was a night four years ago, around the time of their last full length release Ullakkopalo, when I found myself urgently in need of a chemical friend (as their name translates into English), and Jan Anderzén's far-out collective Kemialliset Ystävät thankfully came to my aid. It was a simple mistake that any fool with an unhealthy obsession with the ideas of Timothy Leary, a narcissistic love of wallowing in their own subconscious and a downright disrespect for their own physical safety, could have made. I spoke to a friend who ill-advisedly suggested at least three drops of the liquid preparation, so I of course took four, regretting the decision a mere ten minutes later as an Almighty phantom hand swept in from the deepest regions of the cosmos to enfold my hammering heart in its tight, icy grasp. Being no stranger to such experiences, I knew that although technically speaking I was in no immediate physical danger, spending the next 12 hours cowering in abject terror was no fun either, so I immediately began trying to rectify the situation as best I knew how.

Can's beautifully symphonic Future Days, combined with some chanting on my part as I watched my face in the mirror run fast-forward through a rapid spectrum of animal forms certainly helped, but it wasn't until I put Ullakkopalo on the stereo that I breathed a massive sigh of relief and actually began to enjoy myself. My friend who was with me (people, if you really must do psychedelic drugs, for Christ's sake get your doses right and never take them on your own, no matter how confident you think you are), thought it was hilarious that this very strange album, which sounded like a group of toddler extraterrestrials playing with toy instruments actually had the effect of calming me down, when it would likely have caused other more sane individuals to run screaming for the metaphorical hills.

But calm me down it did, and by the third or fourth consecutive spin, I felt as if the universe was sharing its innermost secrets with me, as though I were witnessing the manufacture of matter itself, brought into being by industrious entities singing, enchanting and knitting together energy into the bonds that underlie atomic structure. I always wanted to thank my chemical friends for their participation in my cosmic swansong (if you think I'd go there again after that, then you're crazier than I am) but up until now I've never had the chance, so let me take this opportunity to say: Thanks guys.

There has been much discussion on the Quietus of late as to what constitutes music that is psychedelic in nature, rather than simply of the psychedelic genre, with some commenters suggesting that any music may indeed sound psychedelic when perceived through the right (or wrong, depending on your personal experience) chemical lens. Whilst there is certainly some truth in the fact that all sounds may appear altered during such an experience, for me it's an undeniable fact that only truly psychedelic music can wrap you safely in its wings and take you on a journey to the deepest realms of inner space. Kemialliset Ystävät make such music, doing so with both a unique sense of identity and a joyous playfulness that makes them an irresistible proposition for anyone inclined towards such journeys.

Pere Ubu's David Thomas once said: "New ain't nothing but old hat chromed,' and indeed it sometimes appears although there is little room left for true musical innovation that isn't solely derived from the application of new technology. Although Kemialliset Ystävät bring to mind both The Residents at the time of their early experiments with sampling technology around The Mole Trilogy era and the more electronically pulsating Faust tracks to be found on their Munic & Elsewhere collection of previously unreleased material, there is still something strikingly original about their sound. Experimental, yet accessible, their songs are compiled of acoustic and electronic sources, manipulated voices (when they played the Buffalo Bar in London in August 2007, one member of the band sat on the floor for the whole time, chanting into a microphone with a bank of effects pedals beside him), hand-drum loops, flutes and god-only-knows what else.

Their 12th album, Alas Rattoisaa Virtaa, which translates into something like "enjoyable down flows" according to Google translator, is more electronic and less murky sounding than its predecessor. Despite the music's inherent strangeness, the sounds that make up its palette glow with an inner neon beauty and flickering warmth that feels welcoming instead of purely disorientating. Eschewing outright beats in favour of a propulsive, throbbing irregular heartbeat that the band themselves describe as akin to "an overflowing tub of funny jelly," the music evokes images of creatures of Finnish folklore, Moomins cavorting manically in lush green forests. This is an addictive record which makes for compulsive listening, with pieces flowing seamlessly into one another. Picking a single highlight is therefore a difficult task, but at a push I'd go for track number eight, 'Ei Millään Kielellä', which could almost be a freakier, Finnish cousin to something from Musik Von Harmonia. Simply put, this is wonderful, otherworldly stuff, capable of taking the listener on a hugely enjoyable journey even without recourse to psychedelic drugs.