A horrible hack

Sokea Piste

Välikäsi

Year Released: 2014
Format: LP
Label: PeterWalkee - Ektro - Tuska&Ahdistus - Karkia Mistika Records
 
Reviewed by Alex Hannan on Dec 4, 2014
The first spin of SOKEA PISTE's second LP was enough to raise surprise that I hadn't heard of them before - a solid, purposeful style of dark punk made by former members of some other well known Finnish bands (MANIFESTO JUKEBOX, KYKLOOPPIEN SUKUPUUTTO.) Released in 2013, 'Välikäsi' is getting a second push thanks to an American pressing by Peterwalkee records. Their experience is audible in the breadth of influence they draw from and the confidence in its delivery, but they're also capable of serving up their own aesthetic.

You better be in the mood for some gloom, though. Barely five seconds in and you can feel the storm-clouds gathering, a two-guitar lineup spreading dissonant clouds of unease, but also capable of locking into a pounding urgency when the rhythm section builds up momentum. The riffs trace angular patterns, but the overall effect is circular and brooding, rarely finding satisfaction or release, an analogue for the inner crisis in many of the lyrics - in "Kaaoksen laki" the vocalist intones ominously (in Finnish), "this illusion will be irrevocably shattered / time and the law of chaos refuse to be chained / what will soon face us is totally unpredictable [...] we have lost the reins aeons ago." "Kylmä Asema" draws on high, austere JOY DIVISION-style basslines, a hypnotic focus leading into a guardedly melodic refrain. "Samassa Veneessä" has a restless, martial feel, a hint of SIEKIERA-style coldwave, melodic motion pent up in narrow intervals, contrasting again with a catchier chorus.

The second side doesn't hold my interest as firmly, the two faster songs not quite as memorable and the three slower-paced ones becalming the earlier energy. "Pimeää Voimaa" brings out a latent 90s emo-hardcore feel to their sound, but the the placement of the two longest tracks ("Välikäsi" and "Pako") next to each other steers the mood towards monochrome and sullen for too long. Closer "Sähköiskuja" is the highlight of this handful of songs, gradually gathering momentum from eerie, methodical post-punk into a ragged, urgent chant.

There's a lot to like here, and it seems that the band members are creative on many different fronts from the artwork to more experimental musical projects. "Välikäsi" is a tough nut to crack, though, requiring time to tease out the interesting work going on in the layers of the record, and can be a dour listen. I would have appreciated more space and variety in the arrangements, maybe more textural experiments, as there isn't much respite from the full-band sound. So I have a few reservations about the presentation, but if SOKEA PISTE bring a compelling energy to these songs live I'm sure I wouldn't be complaining about going to see them.


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