A few of the northernmost cities in Finland have made quite significant contributions to Finnish progressive rock. Undoubtedly, the polar night has shaped the progressive concept quite a lot, what with the primal sound and fury of CMX and the comfy and somewhat nerdy naivety of ABSOLUUTTINEN NOLLAPISTE. In September 2021, yet another northern prog outfit, hailing from Oulu, appeared on my radar: RIUTTA. The band have two independent prog releases under their belt already, the albums, “Kaikki On Hyvin” (2013) and “Sinun Täytyy Elää Vielä Kerran” (2016). Now, these Arctic proggers are back with a new 6-track outing titled “Enne,” released via Gunkanjima Records. The subtle echoes of these two aforementioned northern godfathers of prog can be heard here and there as RIUTTA blends nerdy art-pop and shoegazing introspection with meticulously crafted prog riffs, dynamic post-rock ostinatos, and the odd pinch of the 1980s new wave. This sort of romantic involvement between vintage prog aesthetics and all the later style installments gently reminds us once again that progressive rock used to be an art form of pedigree position for a reason. In a way, prog is the new black – it goes pretty well with anything.
The album kicks off with an offbeat riff that resonates with the subtle aura of CMX‘s early-1990s work. Instead of embarking on a shamanic punk-prog trip though, the opening track, “Musta Sappi,” soon introduces more art-poppy flavors that echo the new wave aesthetics of the early 1980s, perfecting the impression even further with the synth-layered outro that steps into the indie realm of M83. Apparently, these prog-minded musicians are not so much about showing off technical virtuosity but exploring less-charted sonic landscapes in the spirit of, say, David Bowie‘s late-1970s Berlin trilogy.
The following 11-minute epic, “Kaksi Aaltoa,” balances between the naivistic prog-pop of ABSOLUUTTINEN NOLLAPISTE and the immense riff murals of bands such as MAGYAR POSSE. One of the main guitar motifs – the one laden thick with the phaser effect – resonates with the authentic widescreen aura of desert rock rather nicely, almost reaching David Gilmourian spheres. The vocal clang of the singer, Henri Turunen, is slightly reminiscent of KUUSUMUN PROFEETTA and it factors in rather substantially to the signature uniqueness of this prog-pop bunch. The individual elements alone may not sound so out of the ordinary, but combined like this… you cannot really compare RIUTTA merely to a band or two. They are more like that every-flavor-jellybean in those Harry Potter novels.
Quod erat demonstratum, before the album grinds to a close RIUTTA takes a side-step into drowsy shoegaze on the track “Jääpiikki” and plays with the arpeggiated ostinato motif in “Musta Aurinko” to such extent that it does not fall much short of the haunting Finnish prog classic, “Konevitsan Kirkonkellot,” by PIIRPAUKE. In terms of vocals, the song is strongly reminiscent also of the Finnish folksy-dream-pop-prog-whatever outfit, LIEKKI.
While there is a substantial risk of making a beautiful mess of things when you start mixing different flavors with reckless abandon, RIUTTA manages to keep things interesting. “Enne” is a sophisticated and delicious six-course banquet of dreamy pop-tinged art-rock with not-so-subtle prog influences. It is perfectly okay to mix various ingredients, if you do it with style, like these geezers – it’s not like they’re putting pineapple on pizza for god’s sake. At least all connoisseurs of atmospheric dream-pop and prog-flavored art-rock should take heed and check this band out, pronto! Eccentric oddballs such as RIUTTA serve us in the humble and important role of weaving the fabric of the future of prog by not letting it become just another museum artifact.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Musta Sappi
- Kaksi Aaltoa
- Musta Aurinko
Henri Turunen – Vocals, guitars
Tomi Luimula – Drums
Antti Takalo – Bass
Mikko Vuorela – Guitars