Sunday, February 6, 2011

Review: Utopianisti - s/t (2011, Lusti Music)

Finland is a cold place. It’s also dark for a lengthy period of time. In fact, that’s exactly the kind of place I’d like to live in! With a depressive atmosphere and gloomy music being played by the local bands and musicians.
But then you have folks like Markus Pajakkala, who come and ruin the whole thing for you… They play this upbeat and energetic music that makes you want to move your head and feet, music that you can’t help but have your senses shaken and your spirit lifted upon listening to it. Damn it, I’m trying to be depressed here! Those young kids and their damned upbeat and excellent music!

Ok, Let me start again.
Allow me to ask you a few questions before proceeding:

Have you ever wanted to hear a heavy and eclectic Big Band performance?

Are you curious as to the possibilities of having a large ensemble of musicians, practically an small orchestra, playing a mix made up of blues, jazz and rock with a little metal-ic leanings as well as some electronic effects added for good measure? 

Do you like the sort of music from Frank Zappa, Alamaailman Vasarat, Mr. Bungle, miRthkon, Zorn’s Dreamers, et al.?

Is the notion of an instrumental extravaganza beating your ears constantly, excite you?

If you’ve answered Yes to any of the above, you might want to give Utopianisti a listen!

Who is the man behind this project?
Markus Pajakkala was born 1986 in Kangasala, Finland. He began playing drums at the age of 10 and then proceeded to play the saxophone and keyboards. He studies Music Technology in Sibelius-Academy in Finland. The music on this, his first solo album, was composed between 2005 and 2010. On the album are featured 17 guest musicians from various background who have been given free hand to play their own solo parts. Markus also plays, composes and produces Poutatorvi, is a sound engineer for Snekka and plays sax in Liljan Loisto.

Markus Pajakkala has assembled a full orchestra around him and recorded a fabulous diverse album. By now you get the idea of what kind of sounds and styles to expect; while you can hear influences or similarities to the afore mentioned groups and musicians, Markus has done a stellar job at bringing his vision to life and creating fresh and uplifting music. Indeed, there is much to rejoice for those who love their music being a mix of various styles, but done effectively and in good measure. Moreover, if you like your music to be engaging, energetic and at fast pace, this would make you happy as well.
I particularly liked the more exotic sounding tracks, like Kärry, with fantastic percussion and groovy beat and rhythm.
Another magnificent track was Markus-sedän letkeämpi klezmer with it’s various styles interjectd within the composition – this track alone shows the diversity of Markus and his talent at combining various approaches into a wholesome piece.
Markus also reaches out for a French flavour in the cool track Bordeaux, with the requisite accordion and the sentimental string instruments.
But if you want a more representative piece of the album, try the second aptly named track, Plutonium Fist. As the name suggests, it is a punch to the face with its ferocious and aggressive beat and tune. This radioactive track holds together touches of blues, jazz-rock and a little metal-ish touch.
Or you could go for some gypsy and folk inspired powerful pieces like Hopeinen kyy with extraordinary drumming and percussion that underlie demented and superb violin playing.
I wrote that this is an instrumental album but there is one sung piece, Sull'on mies joka planeetalla, in which Markus sings and he does so well. A bluesy and hard rock piece, but with the brass instruments playing along, this sounds so much richer than an average blues/rock song. I also need to mention the great guitar solo played in the middle of the song.

It is a dense and heavy album, due to the massive sound of the orchestra and the nature of the music. I felt exhausted after each listen, but then I always wanted more of it immediately after.

I’m so happy to have found an album, so early in 2011, that made me go “Wow!! This is incredible”.
This is an early contender for the top 2011 albums list.
To be played loud!

You can stream this album in Bandcamp:


  1. Definitely going to check this one out. Thanks once again Assaf!


  2. All I had to do was steam a couple of tracks and I was hooked. I am listening to the copy I bought right now. Awesome!

  3. Hi HT, glad you like the album. I was also struck by how good and how much of a hook it is.




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