Kadonnut puutarha (The Lost Garden) is Indica's third album. Right from the very beginning their obvious strength has been an ability to write compelling songs, with subtle yet powerful melodies which linger in the brain. The arrival of a third album poses a natural question:- can they still come up with good new songs?
I did have it on pre-order, but I couldn't resist looking for an advance review to see how it was going down with the critics. I found a piece on one major site, and while I didn't have the time to translate it, I saw that while they had given the previous albums 8 out of 10, Kadonnut puutarha scored a full 10. And there was one intriguing English expression: Indica rocks!
Kadonnut puutarha kicks off with a remarkable, stunning song. Viimeinen jyvä (The Last Grain) is a breath-taking attention grabber, an emotional rush which stops you in your tracks. It's Indica at their characteristic best, sweeping us along in a grand, almost anthemic experience. And as for the lyrics... the website forum has recently featured some translation into English, and unsurprisingly Indica's lyrics turn out to be subtle, layered, woven with imagery; the well written poetry you'd expect. This song seems to be about a damaged relationship, but which appeals to the 'last grain' of hope. Basically, as with all these songs, reading the lyrics shows the skill with which words and melody have been carefully crafted together to create their emotional force.
It's immediately followed by Linnansa vanki (The Prisoner in Her Castle), a strong slice of pop melody, lighter in tone, and the single which preceded the album. The structure of the album is in fact very like the earlier ones; it begins with songs of instant impact, switches to a different pace and tone; alternates with a couple of stronger numbers, and then carries on with more meditative tracks. The last song, Helmet (Pearls) in particular is a near mirror of Viimeinen tanssi (The Last Dance) from Tuuliset tienoot; we certainly seem to be back in that same faded dance hall from some old black and white film, feeling that same nostalgia with a touch of melancholy. But the difference in this album is the lack of a powerful anthem just beforehand. It puts quite a burden on the strength of the songwriting there, and it's where we discover how accomplished the band have become.
So, what about that Indica rocks! comment? I think it could have most to do with Pahan tarha (Garden of Evil, though I initially read it as Bad Farm which I kind of like :). You almost feel Jenny (guitar) and Laura (drums) must have started muttering about getting some more action, because they both get a good work out here. Ulkona (Outside) is another terrific driving song which should satisfy anyone who needs a flavour of rock. And the chorus is a great piece of hookery.
And then there are the songs which take a little longer to sink in. I'm going to mention three, although I don't think there's a weak track anywhere on the album, and I know fans have had wildly different verdicts as to their favourite songs. Noita (Witch), Äänet (Voices) and Mykkä (Dumb) share some of the near operatic narrative and grandeur of past Indica ballads, but seem to reach further than before into the complexities of mind and experience. There comes a point psychology doesn't help any more; we're talking about things which seem to vanish if you focus the microscope too closely. But those songs share an understanding of our spiritual needs in the face of the things which overwhelm in life. ...Blimey! Before I dig myself too far into Pseuds Corner, let me simply say... just listen to the songs! :)
Jenny and Sirkku
My favourite image from the album, I'm unashamed to say, because though all the girls look great these two have some dazzling smiles, and it's such a relief to see a happy Sirkku in particular - in the pictures for Tuuliset tienoot the photographer must have told her to look as if she'd eaten something off the floor, and she was not a happy bunny :(
The really satisfying thing is that even though Kadonnut puutarha does feature some harder edged sounds than before, it's never at the expense of the voice, and the lyrics still lead. The production of the album is outstanding, and I'm thinking particularly of the balance between instruments and voice. Jonsu's voice is a main part of the character of the band: it is a distinctive one, and I know some people, while appreciating the band, are less comfortable with it, especially when it's on its own and in slow wavering moments as in Nukkuu kedolla (in theory the title is Sleeps in the Field but I'm not sure this translates very well) and Helmet (Pearls). For me, her singing is one of the most attractive things about the band: there's strength and emotional conviction in that deceptively vulnerable voice. But what about live performance? I'm curious now, about how well they they balance everything when they're playing live so as not to lose the voice in the mix.
Like with any good album, you come away with a jumble of vivid moments in your mind, and when you play it again, they're the staging posts which mark the passage of the songs: the eerie half whispered chorus near the end of Noita; the 'syttyy ja sammuu' in Nukkuu kedolla; the delicious short slice of guitar riffage in Pahan tarha; the lilting 'double bass' line in Helmet; and of course the catch-your-breath chorus in Viimeinen jyvä. There are so many more, beautiful little moments you wait for as the songs go by. And I love the way she says löydä... :)
The answer to that question at the top is that Kadonnut puutarha is a wonderful album. It confirms that Indica are a very special band indeed. This is an album I've played over and over without exhausting its rich treasures. Its songs have followed me around and touched a host of feelings and memories. It has powerfully reminded me that it was this band which made me want to learn Finnish. And now I've begun to follow some of the lyrics ('some' being the operative word ;) I've begun to see the paradox in that 'mystical-romantic' tag. Indica's music may suggest some far off place of fantasy, but listen to the music, and the words, even if it's only to the rhythms of the verse, and you'll find that the imaginative world of these songs is the real one.
29 April 2007