When a musical work evokes the weight of natural processes in geologic time, it inevitably exposes impotence in the words used to describe it. Allowing for the difficulty of the written word to reach back through eons of evolution to the essence of the music, then, please see this review for what it is: a humbly inadequate try at just touching on the majesty of Syven’s Aikaintaite.
Syven is a Finnish folk/ambient drone project comprised of two men, with A.K.-S. providing vocals and A.T. (A. Tolonen, formerly of Nest) taking on just about everything else. The duo’s debut album is momentary respite from the ills of the modern world in its remembrance of what we’ve forgotten we know about ourselves and our world. Syven’s is a shamanistic lesson in who We are: wayward motes in the Sea of Time, given life and immensity by our connection with it.
The soul of this record emanates from Antiquity and it is amazing the level of authenticity Aikaintaite achieves from within its modern medium. Syven draws us to ceremony with electric sound, but as conduit to a primal place where music is ritual to strengthen the bond of Self with the grander world around.
No simple task, the creation of modern media that transports the listener to time before Time. A.T. is a man content to work, as he is credited with everything from songwriting to synthesized ambience to the by-hand construction of many of this record’s wide array of musical devices that he plays. It is an important detail that Aikaintaite’s centerpiece instrument is the kantele, an elegant lap harp with a resonant metallic ring and honored status in Finnish history and lore.
Syven translates loosely to “something that is deep,” a crude but apt description of the richness of sound on Akaintaite and one that echoes its spirit. Full, immersive, expansive and all-inclusive. Each piece of the musical schema has received special treatment to fully flesh out Natural form. The snare drum (or its equivalent) cracks like fossilized bone on petrified wood as down-tuned guitar scrapes beneath with the texture of old-growth tree husk, and bass swells like distant thunder. The kantele floats and falls like snowflakes in reflected sunlight. Synthesized keys make real the essence of wind, Time, the delicate drift of Aurora Borealis.
But if A.T. draws the musical anatomy, it is the voice of A.K.-S. that gives it mass. Ranging from sub-mantle resonance to entranced Shaman’s chant, A.K.-S. breathes weight into the corners and clefts set by instrumental intersections. The symbiotic interplay between the kantele and vocals imparts a longing for a once consonant now tenuous communion with Nature and the hope rising tentatively from within is that there might be some restoration through music.
The songs arising from these composite pieces are long and repetitive. Or, depending on your view, they meditate on musical ideas. They ride great waves of slowly undulating energy and are rather unconcerned with actually getting anywhere. Each song begins and ends where it is – in the embrace of Nature, at the edge of Winter, on the precipice of Time. This approach to songwriting reflects the significance of ritual for the artists in seeking timeless and immaculate fusion of spirit with Nature. Being there is the journey.
Despite being chosen very carefully to describe this music’s sound and effect, the preceding words get nowhere near the experience of Aikaintaite. This is perhaps as it should be. If you believe music can work as a spiritual vehicle, then you’re already there. If you scoff at the very question, then no words will likely sway you. A well-considered hour with this record, however, just might.