Review: Kemialliset Ystävät ‎- Siipi Empii (Leaving, Apr 6)

As any fan of strange, adventurous, or unique folk music will know, Kemialliset Ystävät (Finnish for “chemical friends”) is a hard name to miss. The loose collective, led by Jan Anderzén, has spawned an inordinate amount of projects whose reach extends far past the borders of Finland, including Lau Nau, Kiila, Avarus, Islaja, Es, and Anderzén’s own solo moniker Tomutonttu. The vast pool of artists who intermittently come together as Kemialliset Ystävät bring a dizzying range of styles and influences to the table, giving the group a formidable eclecticism that is rivaled by few. Siipi Empii, their newest album, may be their most accessible effort yet. Though the music is still as uncompromising as ever, there are woozy but defined rhythms that tie everything together. A phrase I often use to describe Kemialliset Ystävät’s sound is “density without weight;” that is, there is so much going on at any one time, but it’s all carefully layered in such a way that it still sounds light and whimsical. It also helps that Siipi Empii’s production is incredibly well-handled and clear, giving each element room to breathe as they endlessly tumble over each other, spinning and shooting between your ears. As with all of their records, I find myself disoriented but in an enjoyable way; and unique to Siipi Empii is its airy pulse that keeps me grounded.