Lone Cabin Crow – Isak Sirkka (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

To say that Lone Cabin Crow is a strange album is both an understatement and the utmost compliment. It is strange in that it seeks new pathways through recognisable genres or blends of genres and taking sonic roads less travelled that at least skirtclose to the familiar. And I do mean strange as a compliment. After all, strange means unusual, unique, different, non-conformist, unexpected and a dozen other labels which need to be used less as a derogatory term and more as a sign of individuality, as a celebration rather than as a detriment.

What makes Isak Sirkka’s music so different is the approach that he takes towards the creative process. We live in a world that seems to see creativity, especially in the recorded music sector, as something that is all about polished production and songs penned by teams of writers and researchers all working out what the most audience-friendly song of the moment might sound like. Lone Cabin Crow is an album based on the complete opposite of such attitudes.

The artist himself admits that the album’s lo-fi sound comes from its low budget approach, that the songs seem ambient and fragile in structure because the music is largely improvised at the point of recording, there are no planned hooks or killer riffs but the vibe is a more meditative, one of drifting, formless beauty. Many artists describe their music as being a journey for the listener, Lone Cabin Crow is the sound of an artist going on their own journey to create the music that you hear and that any and every unexpected musical twist or turn found on the album was as much a surprise to the creator as its recipient.

Opening with Bed Brains II, we are presented with the sounds of chiming, understated piano, static noise and a voice that hovers just on the edge of comprehension, something that makes such whispers and vocal washes more an instrument in its own right than the usual means of lyrical communication.

The Old Alternative rises from plaintive piano notes to cocoon itself with all manner of electronic beats and hazy vocals, it is gentle and beguiling, sitting somewhere between music and noise-as-art, which is always an interesting stance to take.

In an album of fairly long songs, The View From The Carriage Road II is a short piano reflection, fairly unadorned by additional sounds. which make for a nice break from the more challenging numbers…but challenging is good, right?

And challenging is soon back on the menu in the form of Sundial which is built from bubbling electronica and the usual disembodied vocals, all coiling together to create musical tension and a claustrophobic feeling. The album ends with Her Hair is a Measure of Time, another chilled and chiming, classical piano piece and a reminder of the prowess of the artist behind the work. Although it feels unplanned and improvised, the sound of an artist feeling his way through emotion and reflection via the medium of music, there is real skill at the heart of its creation.

It is an album like few others you will have heard. It is the sound of folk minimalism and ambient cinematics coming together to create music that feels simultaneously to channel something primal and ancient, be of the moment and also writing a chapter in the future annals of music. It encapsulates what has gone before, hangs in the present and predicts something of the future to come. When was the last time an album did all of that?

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