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Paalanen: Breathbox

Notes & Reviews:

SibaRecords, Sibelius Academy's own record label, has released accordionist Antti Paalanen's new album Breathbox, which is his second solo release. The name of the album comes from Paalanen's instrument, the 3-row accordion, which is quite a sound blowing box. Paalanen has composed all of the album's songs himself, and he says that the tunes of Breathbox tell stories about the world of today.


Antti Paalanen/Breathbox /Siba Records
Antti Paalanen is a young Finnish composer who has created a CD entirely out of multi-tracking his accordion. The style is a mixture of American minimalism (most notably Steve Reich) and traditional sounding Nordic songs with a hint of euro-pop (all the music is in the 4 to 5min range). All the songs that are rhythmic in character tend towards minimalism while the other are slower, more ballad-like and traditional. Almost all the songs are effectively multi-tracked (I assume he used a click to synchronize the accordions) using lots of effective eqing and pitch doubling, especially for thick sustained bass notes. Also ‘Squeezebox’ effects provide a lot of the percussion sounds—often setting up a pop-like groove. Occasionally there are further electronic manipulations to add further sonic interest.

The CD opens with ‘Breathe’ that uses Reichian cells over a four-chord progression and squeezebox percussion. Beautiful envelope opening/ closing phrasing shape the patterns while single repeated note shards float overtop.

The next piece is ‘Permafrost’, where there is a real fusing of minimalism with the Nordic melisma tradition. The squeezebox is again used to create groove from a faux kick drum.

This is follow by ’Tailspin’ which is the most abstracted piece, having a kind a kind of barbaric Stravinsky-like tutti and concertino built into the form. It really pushes
The multi-tracking in an interesting direction—I wish there was more of this kind of thickness and pushing of the boundaries. ‘Boggler’ has a similar rhythmic pace with lots of melisma overtop and a phase shifting B section.

The remaining pieces either consists of slow sustained ballads or slower waltz meters with choppy syncopation and with incredible melisma playing by Paalanen.

It is the hope of this reviewer that Paalanen continues on this path he has chosen
and that he continues to integrate the minimalist element with the Nordic folk song tradition. I also look forward to further exploration of the multi-tracking with more grandiose arrangements and more timbral, tuning, and harmonic blurring. The beginning of a whole realm of possibilities has been unearthed in this interesting and adventuresome CD.

Submitted on 09/19/11 by Mike Maguire 
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