It feels a bit odd to review an album that most Foxy Digitalis readers will know already. This, I reckon, is precisely the case with Kemialliset Ystävät’s self-titled opus magnum. It seems to be common sense that this is a masterpiece, and very good it is indeed. With this release, the Finnish free folk collective around mastermind Jan Anderzén takes everything the genre has to offer and carries it to extremes. It’s all there, assembled to full effect: the intensity of noisy freakouts that are sometimes entire tracks, the density of everything happening at once, the free spirit of improvisation, but also the sublime beauty of melodies that stick out from the aural oddness and invite the listener to join a pagan dance in the Finnish woods. The beautiful cover photo definitely adds to the experience.
However I have to admit I’m finding it difficult to wholeheartedly enjoy the album as one piece. The more melodic tracks like “Superhimmeli”, “Himmelimenetelmä” and “ Himmeli Kutsuu Minur” (not sure if this is a series of tracks but the titles certainly suggest so) are among the best I’ve heard all year. There are other tracks, though, which I don’t enjoy as much: free-psych pieces in which I am at loss to sense a direction or at times even – surprisingly enough – atmosphere. All the elements of Kemialliset Ystävät’s unique sound are still present: Brooks trickle around mossy stones, choirs chant and wail, synthesizer melodies are drowned by birdlike machine sounds, a wind chime and other percussion dangle sprightly from trees as if moved by whispering winds to call the inhabitants of the woods to the annual Walpurgisnacht meeting. But when all of this is played at once, the tracks tend to lack coherence. Even with these reservations, however, “Kemialliset Ystävät” is a standout album to which I’ll return again and again. 8/10 -- Jan-Arne Sohns (22 August, 2007)