(All Album Reviews by Reginod)
Finnish native Otso Pakarinen may be one of the best-kept secrets in the world of electronic progressive music. He's actually been making music for several decades, starting as a youngster in the early 1970's, but since the turn of the millennium, along with a few contributors, he's made several albums in the guise of Ozone Player. Frozen Paint On Boiling Canvas is the fourth such album; it was produced, mixed and mastered by Pakarinen, and he composed and arranged most of the included material. Tim Walters played recorder, hammer dulcimer and percussion on three cuts, and co-wrote one of them; Esa Hyvönen played percussion on one of the ten tracks.
Each cut on Frozen Paint On Boiling Canvas is carefully constructed and embodied by the vast array of synth timbres and "found sounds" deployed by Pakarinen (check out his equipment at http://www.ozoneplayer.com/pages/music_gearlist.html), and the emotional territory explored over the course of the album is plentiful. "The Sprawl" is propelled by a bouncing, Tangerine Dream-homage sequencer rhythm, but takes a few pleasing compositional turns, featuring an Eastern-flavored modality. The ominous and excellent "We Are All Carrying The Burden Of Our Future" adequately conveys a sense of urgency, while "Limping Alien" is an odd-meter delight and one of the album's more humorous and off-center cuts, deliberately using some slightly out-of-pitch synth timbres.
I wonder if Pakarinen didn't dream up "Freudian Sleep" in the literal sense, with its insistent nightmarishness. One synth sound utilized therein helps build tension by approximating the staccato bursts of a string section. On "Edgewood" Walters' recorder at first takes the melodic lead, backed up gracefully by Pakarinen's layered beds of synths. The last half of the piece showcases the keyboards, set upon a rhythmic pattern that reminds me of some of the sounds heard on Johannes Schmoelling's Wuivend Riet. "Spring Theory" and "Sometimes It Is Not As Always" are good examples of how Pakarinen can blend symphonic ideas into an electronic framework, while "From A to B" reflects a pensive but relaxed bliss.
"Whatever Happened To The Emperor's Old Clothes?" is the album's longest piece at almost seven minutes, and includes a memorable and wistful melody played over a subtle, minor-to-major chord shift. Like all the cuts on this album, it is neither under- or over-developed. Pakarinen knows well how to establish theme and mood, and then "get out" before matters become tedious. A nod to the old days becomes obvious at the end, as the piece fades out with the sounds of LP surface noise.
Caveats? Well, those listeners searching for jagged, harsh, heavy, aggressive music naturally will want to look elsewhere. Even an EM-loving skeptic might dismiss Ozone Player as being too "new-agey." To use a culinary analogy, this music doesn't boil, it simmers. Of course many dishes are often best when cooked slowly; there is gladly a sense of seething, cerebral desperation and haunted beauty to this album. It would probably appeal to listeners who enjoy atmospheric, moody fare spiced with consonant melodies and set in a succinct compositional framework.
Listening to Ozone Player also gives me the impression that certain large-budget film makers might be doing themselves a favor by giving Pakarinen a call. Some of his music has a spooky cinematic tinge ("They Are Finally Starting To Come" is an example), and with his background as producer of music for various video and film projects, it seems like the big screen would be a good fit for Pakarinen's talents. Maybe then he'd be able to finance even more Ozone Player projects, which would be fine by me.