Review: Tsembla – The Hole in the Landscape (NNA, May 25)

Humanity doesn’t deserve the Finnish folk scene. I can’t think of a single other milieu that can compete with the amount of creativity, originality, and experimentation that is spawned from this group of wonderful artists and musicians. Its latest contribution, The Hole in the Landscape out on NNA Tapes, is consistent with the electronic-heavy collage works on related project Kemialliset Ystävät’s most recent releases. Tsembla (Marja Johansson) harnesses an arsenal of woozy electroacoustic sound elements that lazily bounce and roll with loose, playful rhythm. The songs feel free and unrestrained but don’t overstay their welcome; Johansson seems to fuse natural expansion and contraction with a modest amount of explicit composition, creating tracks that meander with an end in sight. The Hole in the Landscape marries the conventional and unconventional in a disarming way; penultimate track “Phantom Limbs” feels like a pop song, short and sweet and catchy, but its hooks and verses are instead composed of manipulated acoustic sounds, electronic glitches, and spectral crackles. It’s because of this that Johansson’s newest reaches such a wide audience, and for some of those people (including me) it’ll be exactly what they need.