Where to begin with a 3 CD set of one of my favorite artists around... that's not easy. Last Visible Dog's massive "Whispers From the Woods" set is an essential, monolithic look at one of the most underappreciated artists in the sprawling Finnish scene. This release compiles many of Uton's (aka Jani Hirvonen) essential, but out-of-print, releases along with some bonus unreleasted material. It's a huge set, but for those who haven't yet experienced the forest spirit that is Uton, this is the best possible place to start.
The best disc here is the first, just because it finally gives Uton's essential "T?m?n Sanan J?lkeen" CD-R (originally released on Hirvonen's own, now defunct, Haamumaa imprint) the proper reissue it deserves. This densely textured album is the aural emergence of the first primeval woods centuries ago. This music has an old soul and Uton's use of dark electronics in conjunction with acoustic instrumentation is nothing short of spectacular. This is a wholly satisfying release, combining all the elements that makes the Finnish underground so great.
Also of note is the long out-of-print CD-R on the Jewelled Antler label, "Ay Um Au Lam." This seven-song release was Uton's most impressive foray into minimal droneworks. Hirvonen never overwhelms you with the electronic tones on "Ay Um Au Lam." He knows when to hold back and let the listener's imagination fill in any gaps or cracks that he leaves out. It's an underrated skill, but is used to perfection on this album. "Ay Um Au Lam" is the logical precursor to what is my favorite Uton release to date, "The August Light." Where that release had rich, organic threads weaving through it, like it was the modern music of the magic woods, "Ay Um Au Lam" is more primitive. It's the primordial soup that all life emerged from. In this simple state, this is pure beauty.
The other releases on "Whispers >From the Woods" expand on these various themes and offer a deep insight to Uton's modus operandi. The more noisy and abrasive "Mik? Kasvaa Maan Sis?ll?" (from the noise label Hammasratas in 2003) has an almost childlike feel to it, like a baby learning to finally walk. And there's the underrated 3" from 267 Lattajjaa, "Buddhamania," that is like the same moments from "Mik?," but from the perspective of a concerned, yet proud, parent. It's full of anticipation and fear. This is simply an awesome collection by a wonderfully talented artist.
Uton should be mentioned in the same breath as all the better known acts from Finland. Sure, popularity or recognition means squat these days, but in the end, more people need to hear these excellent compositions. Jani Hirvonen knows what he's doing and does it very, very well. "Whispers From the Woods" is essential for fans of Uton and those who have yet to discover his brilliance. 9/10 -- Brad Rose (25 July, 2005)