October 28, 2021

Mikko Joensuu – Amen 2      moves the gloomy Finn to a plane of redemption

SVART RECORDS   December 9th 2016

For those unfamiliar with the work of Mikko Joensuu (and that would be 99.99% of the UK population), this is a departure from his first album, while following the same trajectory. It should tell you a lot that he has decided that his debut will be a trilogy, released over the space of a year. The first was very sparse, made of piano, guitar and voice, adding strings sometimes, for colour. This starts in a similar vein, with an invocation: “Oh God, would you drop me down” but strings, synths and chorus are piled on, heading towards the sort of multi-layered epic Spiritualised used to do. It builds and builds over seven minutes, before reaching a screeching dissolution.

Dying Rain has a nursery rhyme simplicity and the shimmering steadiness of the arrangement creates a hypnosis, even as the synths wash in a slightly eighties way. The first album seemed to be about beauty in decay and the pain of a suffering soul. This is more stoic and sometimes reaches a static transcendence where the immanent beauty of the world is gazed upon like a Jodorowsky tableau. No One Knows has the atmosphere of Joy Division – a grainy bass intro and a synthetic wash of pale sound, like Atmosphere, followed by motoric drumming and a very lively (for Joensuu) vocal.

What Have I Done is another slightly more lively song, still with a sense of regret and loss, preceding the gentle Sunshine. Not sad at all, Sunshine poddles along on a tick-tock beat and a sea of synth, lulling us into familiarity before the sequencer pop ballad of There Used To Be A Darkness – seems to be Mikko recounting his journey from gloom, not that he’s quite ready to be Justin Timberlake yet. It shuffles round into a synth-pop-Krautrock epic before stuttering out. I picture him dancing round his log cabin, muttering the chorus to himself on playback. Next up is a return to the piano plod, a grim ballad about how he’s “been medicating myself so long that all my memories are gone”. As he moves through the song “the golden hour is finally at hand” and the mood lifts a bit. I Gave You All returns us to where we came in but lightened by the journey. Joensuu’s mood has lifted and we have a similar but lighter sound to the opener. Ten minutes into the track though, he drops to an ambient synthetic throb that massages us deeply through another ten minutes.

He’s no jollier than before, tapping the same vein of darkness that Townes Van Zandt did, but with a wider range of arrangements and approaches, taking us occasionally into less fraught mindscapes and seeing him reach an accommodation with the world and himself. By summer we should have Amen 3 and perhaps redemption and safety. We shall see……