UTON - Into the Dark Waters

Uton photo It’s starting to become a bit of a tedious cliché to describe all capable Finnish bands as parts of a pagan parade in a forest seemingly more mystical than a single one of us even can dream about. It seems a bit lazy to pigeonhole anyone even remotely connected to this scene as purveyors of forested free-folk-noise jams.

In the case of the densely textured, meandering soundscapes of Uton, snapshots of urban landscapes come to mind as frequently as blurry glimpses of mist-clad forest lakes and steep hillsides all draped in moss-clad rocks. If I’d transfer such a comment into sonic comparisons I’d say it’s a bit like a secret meeting between early Coil and No Neck Blues Band, if that makes any sense. Add to all this something distinctively Finnish and we got ourselves a one man band that possibly is one of the most neglected combos in the sprawling Finnish scene, but also an artist that in terms of mood and tension sounds a whole lot different than the rest of the gang.

Uton, AKA Jani Hirvonen, started doing home recordings in the early ‘00s that further down the line saw the light of the day as Taivaan Joka Kolossa, his debut CD-R for the Finnish Clay label. Due to its limited edition it appeared in another shape a year later, this time on sister label Musically Incorrect Records (MIR). Just like most of the releases on his own, now defunct Haamumaa imprint these items are incredibly difficult to get your hands on these days, so it’s nice to see at least some of them, as well as more recent Uton releases, finding their way to slightly less obscure labels such as Last Visible Dog, Jewelled Antler (the humming, shimmering noise of Ay Um Au Lam is simply fantastic), Finland’s 267 Lattajjaa and Norway’s Gold Soundz.

Admittedly Uton makes it pretty difficult to escape the mysterious and untouchable, as he claims that “Uton came from outer space, and have been searching some landscapes in earth, connections between worlds Inside and Outside. Uton is the Spirit, and Spirit is Mystery!” This sort of otherworldliness is very much evident in Uton’s music as well, which is a blend of solemn but somewhat claustrophobic drones, meandering electronic soundscapes, clattery krautrock rhythms and plucked acoustic instrumentation. Out of Uton’s ancient drone machine seeps slowly unfurling string mantras that blend beautifully with all sorts of organic sound textures. The outcome is spacious yet occasionally harsh, and although remaining on the difficult side of fringe music this still works like balsam for the warped mind.

Abstract is another word that often comes to mind when thinking about Uton, so I asked Hirvonen if he always has been interested in the more abstract side of the sound spectrum. In his imitable words he replied that “the abstract side is everything. And our conservative side is just one point in the eternal abstract sea, nothing more. But of course it's the common way how we need to live in this society; BUT also, we need to break that common way, because it makes us stupid, boring, idiots etc. It's the world of the Devil. And reality is much much more than the Devil.”

Uton - The August Light That sonic reality can from afar seem like a rather gloomy place, as many of Uton’s recordings are amazingly dark, alien dronescapes that would sweep away the feet of anyone that really dives into the sound presented. But at the same time as they tend to display the darker side of things, there’s also something surprisingly celebrational about it all. When I confronting him with those feelings, Hirvonen responds that “it's dark for the common sense. I see more like that common sense is the dark way, the idea of the devil, which keeps us thinking mostly by that one way - because we need money, we need love, we need this, and we need that, if we want to survive. Society makes us feel that we need to do something that it tells us, or otherwise we are nothing, loonies, waste of life. That’s the real BLACK MAGIC - how so many wants us to be like everybody else, as we have used to do things. Like chains in this common sense...that spirit wants to keep you tightly in one place, even the reality of universe is that everything's changing all the time. Our anxiety comes when we are not interested of this movement - this blow that comes from our bones. It's so difficult for the devil to accept the death, to accept the spiritual transformation. And to see something else, or more than the world of physics.

“But I can accept that my recordings are not for everyone, I can't feed it to someone who is not interested in it, or who is not close enough to it, because it might be too much for that someone. And that's not anymore in the sense of beauty - which is one of those elements I want to respect. I'm not interested in sharing some scary shit with people - there's enough horror as it is.”

Hirvonen has always wanted to create something new, a sonic breeze that speaks to your inner feelings and ideas. It’s like the world just wasn't enough without him and maybe that’s why his music truly seems like one of a kind. This is not just someone making some funny crazy noises, it’s rather a sonic expression of how that someone sees the world, how he lives, what he feel and what he needs to do. To quote Hirvonen himself “it's like diving into the unknown, to see the reality behind these common sense/human/life and death elements.

Despite the fact that the Finnish underground has been receiving lots of attention recently, Uton is still fighting in obscurity. That might very well have started to change now as the Providence, RI-based label Last Visible Dog recently released the triple CD Whispers from the Woods which despite its magnitude is a perfect introduction to this overlooked sound champion, as it beautifully displays the different aspects and sides of Uton’s repertoire. This collection contains everything from Taman Ganan Jalkeen’ (CD-R released on Haamumaa in 2002), all of Mika Kasvaa Maan Sisalla (CD-R released on Hammasratas in 2003), all of the aforementioned Jewelled Antler-release Ay Um Au Lam, five rare compilation tracks and six previously unreleased tracks. Droning strings, minimal guitar scratchings, fractured wind instruments and much more create a sound castle that is full of dark and frightening infernal tunnels which form a kaleidoscopic system where you're bound to get a little lost. The dreamlike world of Uton displays a sort of raw and claustrophobic drone that’s indicative of the noises originating lately from the very top and bottom of the world; this is yet another buzzing keeper from the Finnish forests.