Review: Jukka Kääriäinen – Demoiselle

The phrase “live with no overdubs” is always exciting to me, particularly when I’m confronted with music that suggests the opposite: the careful arrangement of dozens of tiny guitar fragments, each shaped over the course of a dedicated recording take. For Demoiselle to truly have been recorded live with no overdubs, I must picture Jukka Kääriäinen in two possible forms. One: with multiple minds and twice the limbs. How else would he generate dialogues between melodies of entirely contrasting emotional hue? Panic-stricken twangs are placated by soft bowed notes, like thorns jutting out from the downward slope of a flower stem. Glitching fret-scrapes dance across bubbles of reverse harmony. I hear two perceptions of reality in collision – two entirely disparate constructs of understanding – rather than the outpour of a solitary mind. The other possibility, which is just as infeasible, is that Kääriäinen is more a shepherd than an improviser, overseeing the bustle of autonomous communities of sound. After all, those bell tones during the final track feel reminiscent of a newton’s cradle, chiming patiently as it swings back and forth, perpetuated without human intervention. And those chirping high tones often resemble the conversations of insects, ridged and pocketed by tiny intricacies of dialogue and phrasing.

Yet to talk about these sounds as disconnected from their creator is to overlook the intense intimacy of Demoiselle, every inch of which is imbued with blood-warmth and the awkwardness of human movement. As such, I’m forced to conjure one more possibility: Kääriäinen is a master in the art of overlapping time. Often we consider improvisation in terms of unrelenting present tense; particularly when accompanied by the notion of something recorded live without overdubs. Yet as well as maintaining a connection to the present moment, Kääriäinen also engages in a sort of “sudden retrospect”, using glitches to repeat tiny morsels of the past over and over again. The sound of a knuckle knocking against a fretboard. Nails brushing against the ridges of strings. These incidental trinkets are trapped and forced to recur. Kääriäinen plays alongside them in real time, reframing them and reconsidering them as the spontaneous emissions of the now place these morsels of the past under a new hue. Through this process, his “past self” becomes a separate entity entirely, prolonged and transformed through reflection; not trampled by the present tense, but awakened by the opportunity to experience it again, funnelled through FX that twist it and smear it across stereo space. And so while Demoiselle may be driven by a bodily immediacy – I hear the scrunching of hands as much as I hear the plucking of strings – it’s also a thoroughly cerebral exercise, obsessing over the moment just gone even as it brings new moments into being.