Review: Hockey Night – Playing with Too Many Sticks reissue (Artsy, Aug 25)

From Kemialliset Ystävät and Avarus to Destrucktions and Kansanturvamusiikkikomissio, Arnaut Pavle and Vermilia to Tsembla and Uton, Finland will always be an important country to me musically whether I ever get the chance to visit or not. After the amount of praise I’ve already heaped on several noise tapes from the screeching DIY basements of the Land of a Thousand Lakes, it should be no surprise that the hype train is continuing, this time for a digital reissue of a tape released almost exactly a decade ago. Playing with Too Many Sticks is one of just a small handful of tapes from Hockey Night—the ensemble quartet of Jonna Karanka, Arttu Partinen, Sami Pekkola, and Jaakko Tolva—and the inimitable improvisatory style it captures almost reflects and even justifies the group’s sporadic release schedule: their dexterous, exhilarating interactions are played fast and loose, fleeting and squirrely, impossible to pin down. With the consistent backbone of Tolvi’s restless, erratic free-jazz drumming, the single 35-minute set unfurls spectacularly in droves of amateurish guitar, smears of crude tape manipulation, squawks and buzzes of toy instruments, and more, all of it coalescing into a rickety but nonetheless intact amalgam of carnivalesque delirium. The title is more than fitting because the music is all frenzied scrabble and scramble, futile graspings, ersatz excess; like when you’re carrying too many groceries and drop them all, but instead of sitting on the floor in defeat you just appreciate your own little piece of chaos you created. The end of the performance is met with eager applause, but it’s not the startling conclusion that a sudden audience sometimes creates, because everything that precedes it feels like applause too, in a way: a unit of talented but unhinged musicians celebrating the beautiful process of making noise. And that will always be a formula for success—in 2011, in 2021, in whatever year we get to before Mother Earth washes herself clean of us.

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