The prolific The Samurai of Prog, along with its many offshoots, are certainly on a roll. If, for the moment, we set aside the half-a-dozen albums produced since 2020 by the TSoP collective, we also have six collaborative albums from Messrs Bernard, Pörsti and friends in the same time-frame. The latest in this tsunami of releases, Views From the Inner World, features Spanish multi-instrumentalist Rafael Pacha, drummer and multi-instrumentalist Kimmo Pörsti along with an impressive cast of guest musicians, including Marco Bernard. Now given such a heavy release schedule you might be forgiven for thinking that somewhere along the line there might be a dip in quality? Well that is as maybe, however there is no evidence of it here.
The overall ‘concept’ behind the album is the human condition and how we, as individuals or collectively, strive to resolve life’s conundrums. Pacha & Pörsti have therefore set out a musical interpretation with Views From the Inner World, which features ten tracks written by Rafael, Kimmo, or as co-writes, and with further input from the guest musicians. They have also looked to Dan Schamber for the lyrics on three tracks.
Views From the Inner World opens with Ventolera Prelude, a brief stomping instrumental which serves as a positive intro to the album. Following this the first of the three vocal tracks. The premise behind Watch the Stars is to offer perspective to our “dramas and problems” and as we observe the night sky it offers ‘scale’ to our personal troubles.
Even though I feel so small
(And we feel so very far away)
Finding comfort beneath the sky, I
Stand below list’ning to the stars”
Learn from them”
With a strong themed keyboard lead-in, and with this ‘watcher of the skies’ postulation, John Wilkinson channels his inner Phil Collins, delivering an impressive vocal in Watch the Stars. A song which harks back to mid-’70s Genesis, full of memorable themes and a Tony Banks styled keyboard solo to boot.
The following three tracks take on a brighter view to the human condition and whilst Jubilation retains some of that Genesis feel, certainly in the 7/8 sections, the track morphs through a number of stylistic changes whilst acting as a precursor to a lighter consciousness. Under A Cloudless Sky, written by Kimmo, is a jaunty folk tune, something from his Padarion days perhaps, or more recently the Guildmaster, The Knight and the Ghost album. Time for Rafael Pacha to roll out and perform an impressive array of instruments – whistles, lyra (a handheld harp), mandolin, stringed instruments, as well as guitar and keyboards. A joyous excursion. Finally in the trio of tracks we have Matkakuume. A literal translation of the Finnish word matkakuume is ‘travel fever’, although I much prefer the definition given in the booklet ‘the excitement of starting a journey’. Pacha & Pörsti’s Matkakuume is a bright and breezy thematic instrumental chockfull of organ and guitar interactions…
Sometimes the solution to our problems is simply to trust in the moment and embrace change, the concept explored in Leap in the Dark. Lyrically vocalist Ariana Valdivié takes us along that pathway, transitioning from dark to light, dark clouds to bright blue skies. Given this backdrop the track remains upbeat and cheerful throughout and replete with infectious instrumentation. The contrasting Shadows of Lost Memories is a sedate piece centred around electric piano and acoustic guitar, whilst conceptually exploring the idea of déjà vu.
The Man Who Walked Home takes duality as its theme, and cites Erwin Schrödinger’s thought experiment, often referred to as Schrödinger’s cat, which “poses the question of when exactly quantum superposition ends and reality resolves into one possibility or the other.” How Schrödinger’s experiment relates to the The Man Who Walked Home is down to the listener, musically however we have moved into jazzier realms encompassing Middle Eastern colourings. It’s a fantastic track, Marek Arnold is scintillating on soprano saxophone, Ruben Alvarez delivers some fiery fretboard work, whilst the final guest, Jan-Olof Strandberg, plays some tasty fretless bass.
The penultimate track takes its title from a Spanish word that refers to a sudden strong sea gust, or as the booklet implies, an ’emotional and irrational’ outburst, further suggesting “…ending a toxic relationship, or doing something crazy that takes us out of the daily routine.” Which, in spirit, seems a far cry from the music itself. Ventolera recaps the opening prelude, retaining the sweet, joyous melodies and themes along with a toe tapping beat. There is a gentler midway section with acoustic guitar, piano and choral sounds, the tranquillity broken by a soaring guitar solo, from Rafael, before all comes full circle and we return to the main theme.
Introducing Views From the Inner World‘s final song, Alone Against Tomorrow, the booklet offers the notion: “So much more to know…” Lyrically we touch on the ideas mooted across the album – the Earth is all we know, but in a vast universe “there is much more to learn”. So the ballad, Alone Against Tomorrow, with its message of hope, takes us out. Kimmo Pörsti provides the solid rhythm section, accompanied by Olli Jaakkola’s lilting flute, Ariane Valdivié’s warm vocal and more impressive guitar from Rafael Pacha…
As with all releases from the Seacrest Oy label, the attention to detail is guaranteed. The artwork, booklet and cover are impressive, as are the production values. So regardless of the sizeable output from TSoP and related projects, in recent years, the standard remains high.
Views From The Inner World is highly recommended to those who enjoy melodic and symphonic progressive folk/rock…
01. Ventolera Prelude (1:04)
02. Watch the Stars (6:52)
03. Jubilation (4:58)
04. Under A Cloudless Sky (5:41)
05. Matkakuume (4:54)
06. Leap in the Dark (6:27)
07. Shadows of Lost Memories (3:16)
08. The Man Who Walked Home (8:44)
09. Ventolera (8:55)
10. Alone Against Tomorrow (7:09)
Total Time – 57:57
Kimmo Pörsti – Drums, Percussion, Keyboards
Rafael Pacha – Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Lyra, Mandolin, Viola da Gamba, Electric Violin, Low & High Whistles
Ruben Alvarez – Electric Guitar (track 8)
Marek Arnold – Soprano Saxophone (track 8)
Olli Jaakkola – Flute, Soprano Saxophone (tracks 3,6 & 10)
Marco Bernard – Bass (tracks 2,5 & 6)
Jan-Olof Strandberg – Bass (tracks 3 & 8)
Ariane Valdivié – Vocals (tracks 6 & 10)
John Wilkinson – Vocals (track 2)
Record Label: Seacrest Oy
Country of Origin: Finland | Spain
Date of Release: 26th September 2022