Laulu Laakson Kukista is the second full-length release from the reclusive Paavoharju, a loose collective of ascetic born-again Christians. Formed by brothers Lauri and Olli Ainala, the group is filled out by a variety of different contributors, and the resulting music created is truly unlike just about anything else out there. With only twelve songs running just over thirty-five minutes, it's one of those releases that's somewhat all over the map, sounding something like a collage of globe-spanning half-remembered songs filtering out of a deep, dark forest somewhere.
That's not to say that the release is downcast, but it's certainly mysterious, and even spiritual sounding in places. A perfect example is "Kevätrumpu," as vocals from Leena Uotila give off an almost middle-eastern flair as electronic beats, synths, chimes, and hazy washes alternately drift through the air and pound forwards. "Tuoksu Tarttuu Meihin" is even better, as everything from haunting female vocals to violin swirls, electronics, and a musty parlor-style piano melody drifting through a haze of field recordings and soft feedback.
Easily mingling together both organic and electronic sounds, the group at times calls to mind work by Boards of Canada or Bibio with their sort of sepia-toned programmed beats and drifting instrumentation. "Ursulan Uni" finds broken-sounding drum machine thumps working through another soft wash of white noise, piano fragmentations, and wordless vocals in just such a way, and the group manages to make it all sound very "of the earth" with their crackled and damaged aesthetic. As if all these styles weren't enough, "Tyttö Tanssii" finds them weaving through a sort of space-folk sing-along that's downright playful.
The album only misses the mark in a couple of places, and it's usually for a very short amount of time. On "Uskallan," they fall back on the well-worn (and annoying, to me anyway) tradition of using baby-babbling field recordings (it didn't work for Music Tapes either) to fill in the gaps of what is otherwise a fun, fuzzed-out track, while all of the short interstitial tracks add nothing to the release at all (especially when most songs have their own short openings and codas. That said, my quibbles with this release are fairly minor, and if you're a fan of anything from outsider music to freak folk to the Sublime Frequencies label, Paavoharju have put together an entrancing second release.