Review: Minna Koskenlahti – Toinen/Other

BANDCAMP.

In addition to the instrument/texture setup referenced in the accompanying text (frame drum, traditional Spanish tambore, wooden whistle, paper, plastic, metal), the other prominent sound on Toinen/Other is Koskenlahti’s own breath. On “Tunto/Sense” it’s a nasal breeze skimming over the thumps and scurrying fingers, while on “Massa/Mass” it’s a sigh of gathered concentration before she launches into a groove of metronomic pulses and polyrhythmic metallic clatter. As the beats accelerate and mellow, the breath moves in energetic parallel. Even in her silence she is palpably present. The pauses manifest as moments of listening, contemplating and recalibrating – evidence of Toinen/Other as an act of exploratory study through which questions are posed, answers are received and considered, and further lines of inquiry identified.

Koskenlahti can be present because the recording leaves ample room for her. Only occasionally is the space swamped with drones and harmonics (as in the tidal washes on “Pura/Unsettle”) – the album is otherwise arranged crescent-like in the stereo field, clinging to the perimeter and leaving the centre as a vessel for reverberation and receipt. It’s within this space that Koskenlahti considers and reconfigures, opting to quicken the beats and cut resonances short, or punctuate long ribbons of attack with sudden, booming full-stops. This is one of the reasons why the album’s closing piece is so wonderful: suddenly the middle is filled with the flutter of the wooden whistle, manifesting in a gush of melody after half-hour of poised percussive pitches, adding sudden shock of colour to the respiratory energy that runs throughout this fabulous set.