REVIEW: Mr. Fastfinger – Flight Mode

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“Road movies for the ears,” is how the press release describes the music of MR. FASTFINGER, the animated sensei, avatar, or what have you, of Finnish guitarist Mika Tyyskä. By way of definition, it is quite spot on, with the added specification that, on the latest studio installment entitled “Flight Mode,” released independently on November 11th, 2022, the mode of transportation is flying, exclusively. Seen from the bird’s-eye view, the musical landscape is predominantly dotted with progressive and fusion-tinted shapes and contours, albeit layered with exotic details and a good pinch of 1980s flavor on occasion.

If this artist name doesn’t ring a bell, it might have something to do with Tyyskä‘s rather unconventional route into the pantheon of Finnish guitar luminaries. Sensei MR. FASTFINGER was born in 2005 when GuitarShredShow.com was unleashed. It was a website where gazillions of people could get enlightened and entertained by playing online flash games hosted by this cartoon guitarist. Then, in 2009, Tyyskä released his debut album, “The Way of the Exploding Guitar,” under this peculiar artist alias. Since then, MR. FASTFINGER has released a catalog of five full-length albums, four EPs, and various singles, which feature guest appearances by world-class musicians such as Jordan Rudess (DREAM THEATER), Mattias Eklundh (FREAK KITCHEN), Christophe Godin (MÖRGLBL), and Finnish guitarists Ben Grandfelt and Timo Kämäräinen. Under his cartoon alias, Tyyskä has also made guest appearances on other artists’ albums, ranging from the 2018 HEVISAURUS effort “Mikä Minusta Tulee Isona” to the modern classic of retro-vintage electronica, “Spare Time Machine,” released by PEPE DELUXÉ in 2007. With a track record like this, MR. FASTFINGER is very unlikely to disappoint with his latest endeavor. So, let’s see how it fares…

The journey begins with a full-on progressive knock-out. According to the press release, “Shockwaves” had been around for a long time, resonating with the air of a perfect album opener but, despite the fact that the song had just the right elements, something still seemed amiss…– until keyboard wizard Jordan Rudess, asked to join in, once again. With the added keyboard mayhem, the song now takes off like a cruise missile. Guitar and keyboards take turns dropping highly evocative melodic runs and there’s a prominent air of that somewhat old-schoolish guitar instrumentalism present. Steve Vai‘s celestial 1990 album, “Passion and Warfare,” pops into my mind as a candidate for the closest musical cousin. In terms of instrumental guitar madness, that counts as the epitome of perfection, so MR. FASTFINGER is off to a spectacular start.

The old-school vibe gears up endearingly on “ReWind,” a song that could have slipped from the tracklisting of David Lee Roth‘s magnificent 1988 outing, “Skyscraper,” an album featuring stellar performances by Steve Vai and bassist Billy Sheehan (and one that I still regard as Roth‘s career peak). Yeah, I’m an insufferable old-school nostalgic when it comes to music like this. As luck would have it, it seems I’m not the only one.

Fortunately, for those who aren’t inflicted with this particular condition, the album comes jam-packed with something more than mere nostalgic strolls down memory lane. “Dorian Blast” is a take on the roundhouse blues of some ultra-modern parallel universe and, next up, “Mirage” is an oriental-sounding, ambient journey into the inner space – new age music, almost, but with a twist. Then, “Horse Zeppelin” pays homage to the folksy side of LED ZEPPELIN. Okay, reminiscing on vintage devil’s music, such as blues or 1970s-tinted classic rock, has the potential to make one feel utterly nostalgic but, to give credit where it’s due, Tyyskä masterfully avoids falling into the trap of conjuring up mere pastiches of the real thing; no matter how old-schoolish the music gets, there’s always a twist, as if to remind the listener: that was then, this is now.

Finally, a short ambient interlude entitled “Calm Down” leads into the title track closing the album. “Flight Mode” is indeed the grand finale on the outing, undulating between Vai-influenced melodic spurs and SNARKYPUPPY -like fusion tinges. Oh, me likes so very much! There’s just one thing sorely wrong about the song: it clocks only 4 minutes! Then again, it simply hammers out the point: MR. FASTFINGER‘s new album is yet another prime installment in his brilliant catalog, further establishing the fact that Mika Tyyskä is a guitar force to be reckoned with. I’m no guitarist but I would dare to assume that “Flight Mode” could leave even the most seasoned guitar veterans speechless. On the same note, any serious prog-minded music connoisseur will not know peace until they have this effort in their collection.

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. Shockwaves
  2. Loose Heads
  3. ReWind
  4. Dorian Blast
  5. Mirage
  6. Killer Whale
  7. Bandsalat
  8. Horse Zeppelin
  9. Calm Down
  10. Flight Mode

Lineup

Mika Tyyskä – guitars

Lasse Rantanen – bass

Thomas Törnroos – drums, percussion

Jordan Rudess – keyboards on “Shockwaves”

Label

Independent

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