In November last year Olli Aarni, thereto known as Ous Mal, announced his decision to bring an end to the project he’d nurtured since 2009. Preservation, the label on which he released his final Ous Mal music – 2010′s beautiful Nuojuva Halava – marked the end of an era with a limited edition CD-r of remixes featuring Motion Sickness of Time Travel, Aaron Martin and Black Eagle Child. It was a fitting tribute to a brief but productive project and one that simultaneously moved Aarni on to his next act: Nuojuva.
The progression is clear. Where Nuojuva Halava took beat samples, lush orchestration and faded echoes of Finnish folklore to the point of overload, Valot Kaukaa sees things from a far mellower angle. The clarity of the component parts is blurred so as to create a hallucinogenic, overtly ambient feel that dabbles its feet in cool waters. There are contributions throughout from the pianist Sophie Hutchings and vocals from Rachel Evans, a new addition to Aarni’s sound and one that provides highlights.
Although Valot Kaukaa shows a far more restful – and some would say slightly monotonous – side to Aarni’s work, what it succeeds in doing is creating a sustained atmosphere. His work as Ous Mal tended to fly off at angles, keeping the samples bright and defined. Now he treats sound like watercolours on gauze, allowing them to smudge and bleed into one another. Aarni told Foxy Digitalis that ‘Nuojuva’ translates roughly as ‘swaying’, and it’s definitely a fitting way of describing the music produced under this new moniker. The tracks move serenely and build organically. ‘Kuu piirtää sillan’ has tinkling chimes and squeaking electronics, creating a woozy summer evening of sound. There is birdsong on ‘Laakso’ to help the feeling grow, and more on ‘Kesäyössä’.
Valot Kaukaa‘s crowning glory is the hymnal ‘Huominen’, a sublime potion made up of spare string twitches and the wordless vocals of Rachel Evans and Aarni himself that rise and rise into a chandelier of chinks and chimes. In fact the album rarely touches the ground – the music is almost totally airborne, like dandelion seeds scattered to pollinate it’s creator’s own gentle progression.