KAARNA: Kultataivaat, hopeaveet, unet helmiäistä
Release year: 2022
Label: Anima Arctica
The eccentric and ever-shifting Kaarna have had a pretty steady release schedule. Since the one-man project’s debut album Comitatus Savolaxiae in 2019, the steady pace has been one album per year. So far, it has been an interesting journey, commencing from the archaic dungeon synth of the debut towards ever more genre defying, genuinely unique forms on subsequent albums.
In our review of 2021’s Väkipyssyvärssyjä ja kulkutautitarinoita (review) we noted that the various paths explored on previous releases were starting to converge. On Kultataivaat, hopeaveet, unet helmiäistä, this development continues. Now, truly, it feels like one can start to discern a “Kaarna sound”. And it’s not something to be easily pigeonholed.
The past discography starts out with rustic neofolk on the Voimasanat & aurinkosanat 7″, proceeds to classic 90’s styled dungeon synth on the debut album, from which Kaarna branched out to explore neoclassical, esoteric electronica and very unique takes on martial industrial. In essence, this fourth full-length album contains elements of all these, forging them into something that feels more unified, complete and whole than before.
I cannot help but draw parallels and make comparisons to the already mentioned third album Väkipyssyvärssyjä ja kulkutautitarinoita. Already the similar design and aesthetic of the covers suggests some kind of concrete link. In a way, where the previous album was Kaarna’s most martial, bombastic and quarrelsome to date, Kultataivaat… is far more ethereal, intangible and otherworldly. Where Väkipyssyvärssyjä was, in a way, a very physical album, Kultataivaat… is its intangible, transcending counterpart.
On one hand, the two albums complement each other: one physical and, in a way, worldly, the other more abstract and otherworldly. But on the other, Kultataivaat… transcends over Väkipyssyvärssyjä… and the enite back catalogue.
Kultataivaat, hopeaveet, unet helmiäistä is a melting pot of opposites. The instrumentation is a mixture of synthesizers and acoustic instruments, with consciously archaic Cold Meat Industry style neoclassical merging together with rustic, even primitive sounding real instruments. Driving, powerful martial percussion alternates with moments of serenely floating ambience. One song has clearly defined melodic elements in the centre, whilst the next is an abstract piece of feeling more than form. Here Kaarna’s vocals are a rhythmic, dominant recitation, there a distant, dreamy background presence.
And it’s beautiful, from start to finish. Kaarna has always been eccentric, complex and multifaceted, and although this has not changed, it seems to me that now this branching out happens from a more solid trunk, so to speak. A foundation emerges, which roots the diverging threads into a more prominent, strongly defined underlying identity. Due to this, whatever form Kaarna’s expression takes on Kultataivaat…, the inner coherence and continuity feels stronger and more solid.
Standing at this vantage point, listening to Kultataivaat… and revisiting the previous albums, it feels like this is what Kaarna has been working towards this entire time. Future material may of course wildly invalidate everything I am about to say, but it feels like the previous albums have been strands in a weave, which is now starting to come together. The ever-shifting expression of previous albums have been a process of manifesting and putting to record this, an album where Kaarna truly becomes itself.
I have now listened to Kultataivaat… well over a dozen times. As always, my initial reaction was one of slight bafflement – and even frustration (in the sense of “how on earth will I be able to say anything sensible about this album?”). But now, it feels incredibly easy to say with absolute certainty that this is by far my favourite work by the one-man entity so far. The previous albums were all good, but in comparison to the confidence of Kultataivaat…, they feel like a process of searching. Not fumbling of trepidative, but manifestations of a work in progress, so to speak. This is the albedo to their nigredo – I express it in these words, manifesting the hope that future works will go even further and that this not be the rubedo of Kaarna. Although as far as musical apexes go, this would be a respectable one.
Visit Kaarna on Bandcamp