Jarmo Saari Republic: Soldiers of Light

Anthony Shaw By

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In a video introducing this band, Jarmo Saari claims that in his career as Finland's most widely-recognized modern guitarist he is maybe in the wrong niche. But listening to his latest album, and comparing it to his first releases in the mid 1990s with ZetaBoo, even if he doesn't play drums it is obvious that he is happiest when accompanying a powerful and enervated rhythm section. 

Whereas his early work frequently utilized Brazilian and Latin rhythms, he now has three of Finland's finest drummers at his disposal, one each from the fields of jazz, rock and ethnic percussion. In a live context this is somewhat overwhelming, but in the studio his mix includes so many other elements that the percussion is much more balanced—by vocalizations, by his ever-eerie theremin, and by guitar loops and contorted digitalizations. 

This second album under the title of Jarmo Saari Republic is altogether a reflective mix of largely instrumental music. Although the personnel here is unchanged, the unexpected death, in 2016, of a pillar of Finnish modern music's most prominent percussionist Zarkus Poussa was a personal blow to Saari. In as much as his music and his titles have always suggested the transformative, even redemptive power of music, this continues in the current album. Where the previous album saw "Healing Introduction" and "Soldiers of Joy," here we have "Compassion" (including a five-minute excerpt from Charlie Chaplin's diatribe against totalitarianism from his film The Dictator), "Organism" and the contemplative "Saffron Tears."

On most of these tracks Saari combines his love of cathartic rhythm with majestic tunes and wordless vocals. With the exception of one track where he sings the lyrics very straight, he utilizes real world excerpts, as on the final track, "Aura," based on a recorded extract from Poussa's funeral. As a composer, via bold rhythms and arching guitar leads and tones, Saari seems to aspire to transporting his listeners to another realm where the forces of light and love are dominant. Not a bad aspiration.

Track Listing: The wunderers; Compassion; Organism; Polarized flow; My kinda woman; Radio Mammalia; Saffron tears (Dragomir); Polarised flow II; Aura.

Personnel: Jarmo Saari:guitars, vocals, taurus pedal, theremin, keyboards, trombone, percussion, viola da gamba, bass, samples, kantele, glass harp, chromaharp, omnichord; Abdissa Assefa: drums, acoustic & electric percussion; Sami Kuoppamäki: drums, percussion; Olavi Louhivuori: drums, percussion. Also featuring Saima Saari: vocals; Jukkis Kiviniemi: bass; Anna-Mari Kähärä: vocals.

Title: Soldiers of Light | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Jarmo Saari Republic Music

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