This new offering from the Finnish clan is a smattering of gentle melodies cloaked in the shambolic memories of the first buds of spring. Lau Nau is one Laura Naukkarinen. She is no newcomer to the land of the Finnish underground, having performed with such groups as Avarus, The Anaksimandros, and P?iv?ns?de. But her approach on "Kuutarha" is much more gentle; it's like a mother comforting her frightened child, delicately urging him from the darkened corner of his room.
Upon entering the world of "Kuutarha," you are greeted with the whimsical sounds of Laura's voice emerging from a mist of bowed strings. This is also the first of a number of tracks which see Lau Nau joined by the jouhikko master, Pekko K?ppi. It is so peaceful that you'll find yourself drifting in-and-out of a semi-conscious dream state. Like spirits floating above the surface of the earth, there is a sense of freedom on this opening piece, "Jos minulla olisi."
Lau Nau has a lot in common with two of her countrywomen - Islaja and Kuupuu. This is hardly surprising since they're all friends and even have a band together. But, where Kuupuu's compositions drift more toward the ghostly and Islaja's have heavier folk influences, Lau Nau searches out the space between and firmly plants her flag. Each element is placed carefully in order to have the greatest effect. These two sides come to a head on the chilling and beautiful "Hunnun." A deceptively simple track, "Hunnun" highlights Lau Nau's beautiful voice with minimal instrumentation. An electric guitar provides the only accompaniment for the most part (some soft keys come in later). There's a great deal of structure here, but it's the haunting effect of her voice that carries the track toward its demise. It's the kind of thing I imagine sung at a funeral procession as the casket of a fallen hero is slowly carried to the horizon. This is pure magic.
K?ppi returns for the tribal trip of "Kivi murenee jolla k?velee." The loose translation I'm told is "The Rock You Walk Crumbles," which is appropriate. Slow, rhythmic percussion provides a foundation for Lau Nau to destroy you. K?ppi's jouhikko playing adds an air of traditional Eastern folk to the mix, and Lau's shrouded vocals are like the wrecking bell hiding behind the curtain. This is a subtle track, but the effects last well on into the night. The combination of percussion, jouhikko, voice, and various other instruments Laura throws into the mix are daunting and impressive. It's the soundtrack to the end of an era.
Again, I emphasize that this album is pure magic. Laura Naukkarinen has crafted what Kemialliset Yst?v?t's Jan Anderz?n calls one of the great Finnish albums of all-time. It has that monumental quality in a very understated way. This is most obvious on two tracks which seem inherently related, "Kuula" and "Pl?kkikanteletar." "Kuula" brings back a lot of memories of the times in my life that seemed the most hopeless. Laura is an angel singing through the skies, piercing the black clouds with her mystic, enchanting voice. She is offering salvation. She is offering a way out.
That way out is personified on the brilliant "Pl?kkikanteletar." This song is the journey out of the murky depths to which we all descend at some point in our life. Lau Nau is the torchbearer who leads you toward that tunnel of light, swathed in green leaves and gold silk, strumming her guitar along the way. This is the lasting image I have of "Kuutarha" - something simple; something that transcends language and culture. 9/10 -- Brad Rose (25 May, 2005)