Shelflife is proud to present the debut cd from Finland's Artisokka. "A Hiding Place in the Arbor," as its name suggests, offers a welcome respite from the overly-sweet confections of so many pop bands today. Sprinkling only the best bits of strings, synths, and pedal-steel amongst delicate acoustic guitars and restrained vocals, Artisokka evokes nothing less than paradise at twilight.
From the undulating rhythms of "Motionless" to the scenic vistas of "Mint," Artisokka paints a magical landscape of mood and light at once reminiscent of Red House Painters with a dash of Nico. Spare country-tinged ("Imprint") and bossa-pop ("Alfama") influences expand upon - but don't overwhelm - each songs' basic beauty.
Artisokka, which means "artichoke" in Finnish, features the songwriting and vocals of Jari Hilden, but also boasts the talents of Sami and Jani from Cessna, contributing here to the rhythm section. Despite the prickly moniker, this Finnish sextet creates music of soft beauty and hidden delights. After hearing "A Hiding Place in the Arbor," we can't imagine a place we'd rather be.
Praise for Artisokka:
"Artisokka (Finnish for 'artichoke') includes two members of Cessna, who I've heard of for some time but never actually heard. If they are as good as this band then I should really try to track down something by them. Artisokka play a sophisticated kind of indiepop with occasional subtle hints of folk, and in the case of Imprint , the non-tacky kind of country music. The guitars jangle and there are analogue synths and classy string arrangements. There are shades of the 60s and the 80s but overall Artisokka are no retro band, but a band for NOW. I totally love this album - Artisokka are one of the best new indiepop bands I've heard of late, and I really hope there will be more from them soon! - Kim Harten (Aquamarine) "Aah, early morning by the arbor.
Can we apologise for starting this review by mentioning that the things that would spring most readily to mind if you said "Finland" to us in the rose & crown would be pan sonic, Jari Litmanen and rally driving (ooh, and the way that "Phoenix Nights"' reinvented Jari's former international team-mate mixu patelaainen as a crank callers' pseudonym). We are therefore adopting Artisokka (in finnish, it means "artichoke", rather brilliantly) as part of a sustained cultural attempt to destroy our stereotypes and extend our perceptions, and they are accomplished enough to give us encouragement that there is much more of quality out there. Press releases for "A Hiding Place" hint worryingly at a multiplicity of um, sedate influences, but Artisokka, a six-piece fronted by lead tunesmith Jari Hilden, solidly create their own sound on their album debut, the nine tracks extending the "core" sound - lush, percussive and guitar-based - in myriad ways.
"A Hiding Place In The Arbor" repays repeated listening. While that might sound like a polite way of saying that it doesn't light any touchpaper first time round (tru), what we're getting at is that you need the additional plays to be able to differentiate better between tracks, given the consistent mood of the record. If "Motionless" and "Change" (this is an english language long player) start the record by recalling the more muted flair and coffee table blues of the pastels' still semi-divine "illumination", say, things pick up with the faster, poppier "Mint" - incidentally a sterling listening companion to any track you might want to pick from the California Snow Story outing - and the lovely "Imprint", trebly jazz pop anchored by strings and blessed with its own country twang. After "Alfama", heavy on strings and bossa breaks, comes on like something off "this is... Beaumont", things briefly slide again (the loungecore instrumental "Black Puzzle" and the disturbingly folky "Never Leave Me") but then the stylish "Cold Winter" and closer "Offshore" (yep, the chance for us to mention the kings of atmospheric alt, Hood, again, thanks to its most Hood-like opening guitar line) follow to reiterate that props must be due to Artisokka after all. "A Hiding Place" is premium, polished, pastoral indie-pop of the sort that conjures up all the right images - flowers, meadows, fields and (most of all) forest clearings, and as such it offers some respite from the noise, traffic and bustle of your town right now." - In Love With These Times In Spite of These Times "Scandinavia is coming out of the box hard in 2003, this release coming from Finlands Artisokka, who's name means artichoke in Finnish. (didn't I just complain about reviewing artichokes? How odd.) Anyway, this is the vehicle of singer/songwriter Jari Hilden with help from others including two members of the venerable Finnish band Cessna (Who also have a new LP due soon) I do get a laugh when I see the press sheets and it always says "for fans of the velvet underground..." among others. What am I missing? I wish people would stop using them as comparison points. The velvets suck, and in no way am I reminded of them when listening to anyone else, in less of course they might suck. This does not suck. It is a little laid back, again falling short of shoegaze, while remaining quite a bit jangly. It varies from Airliner in that it is a bit more experimental and the vocals are quite different, and some of the other areas it ventures into even include bossa nova waters as on the track Alfama. I think the song that most charmed me is the almost chamber music like instrumental Black Puzzle. It's a cool mix of violin and ambient electric guitar with some sparse female "do do do" thrown in as well. This record is going to require a bit more maturity from it's listeners to truly enjoy and appreciate it's varied styles but if you are up to it I think you'll be quite charmed. In fact it sometimes reminds me of the Hepburns in it's odd variety and it's narrative style of songwriting. Classy cool I believe they call it. (Hip-ometer 9.5)" - Indiepop Spinzone "It's a lovely day. You're out on the lawn with your back to a sturdy oak tree. There's a book open on your lap, but it can wait while you drift off for a minute... Hey, wake up -- you forgot to bring any music.
Let us recommend, for your aimless afternoons and breezy Saturdays, A Hiding Place in the Arbor. On its first album, this Finnish sextet navigates the soft, orchestral pop territory of bands like the Sea and Cake, Stereolab and the Clientele. It is sweet without being cloying, densely musical without being overly embellished, constructed, perhaps, of cotton candy, but with a wiry musical infrastructure that reveals itself on the third or fourth listen.
The album ranges from nearly conventional pop ("Mint") to somber acoustic guitar-based reflection ("Cold Winter") to layered, Latin-rhythmed experimentation ("Alfama"). It starts with "Motionless", a gentle 12/8 ballad whose wispy vocals breathe lyrics of detached, inert regret ("how motionless / how motionless / I miss her"). A wonderful instrumental break near the end sweeps upward with guitars in cautious hope, like an inexplicable lightening of moods. "Change", which follows, starts with pensive guitar arpeggios and quiet male and female vocals buried deep in the mix. Then the cello makes its entrance (for the first time on the disc, too), its warm tones ebbing and receding in changing clouds of sound. The warmth of Artisokka's sound is one of its defining characteristics -- even, as on "Imprint" when it is built on the mechanical tones of a drum machine.
Two highlights come midway through the album. First, the complex and changing "Alfama" melds female voice with light-brushed percussion and fervent strings in a melody that soars and pauses, then rises again. The more abstract "Black Puzzle" brings synthetic sounds to the fore, pitting electronic squiggles against softer bass, guitar and cello and wordless voice used as pure sound. The subsequent "Never Leave Me", again rocking gently in 12/8 triplets, reaches back into more conventional love song tropes, while "Cold Winter" descends into darker-toned regret again. The album closes with "Offshore", as wistful Syd Barrett vocals hover over a bed of mystic guitar and strings.
Artisokka, in case you're wondering, means artichoke in Finnish. Don't laugh; A Hiding Place in the Arbor invites you to strip off the many layers of its varied tones, finding the soft, delicious core at its heart." - Jennifer Kelly (Splendid E-zine) "Fey, unobtrusive pop from a group of young Finns, "A Hiding Place..." could be the soundtrack to a road movie about a group of earnest, pimply teens. By that I mean, this record doesn't seem like much at first, but its simple, heady beauty demands attention. I like this band, if only because five of its six members have first names that end in "i"- that's Jari, Topi, Jani and two Sami's. When they sing, they all sound sort of androgynous, and they're fond of strings and super-quiet percussion. A likeable, if not unforgettable disc." - Kevin (Shredding Paper) "I wonder what the weather in Finland is like...because if I didn't know that Artisokka hail from this pop-friendly country, I'd think they were from Seattle or something! The gorgeous songs they've crafted for their debut album "a hiding place in the arbor" are just perfect for the quiet raindrops and soft grey skies we see here.
This CD is soooo amazing! Songwriter/Vocalist Jari Hilden brings us 9 songs of beauty, with the help of Sami Rouhento and Jani Tihinen of fellow Finnish-pop-wonders, Cessna . They have a quiet sort-of 1960's sound to them, with beautiful string arrangements accompanying them. "Mint" in particular, with it's groovy bass line and bright tambourine, sounds like a poppier Left Banke to me!
And sometimes the sound is very jazzy, and Sea-and-Cake-like (one of my fave bands ever!), especially on the instrumental "Black Puzzle" which sounds so much like my beloved TSAC, I almost expect to hear Sam Prekop's vocals come in after the opening moody bass line and the brisk brush-hit drums kick in. Swoon!
But then songs like "Never Leave Me" and "Cold Winter" (my fave song on the CD) rock out quietly like The Shins, another 60's-influenced-band and another personal-fave-band! Really, how dreamier could this CD be? Sooo highly recommended!!! (j.01.03)" - Janice Headley (Copacetic) "With a band name like Artichoke (at least, the Finnish translation of the word), you might expect a relatively harsh sound, but this six-piece from Finland have created quite the opposite. With their gentle vocals and guitars and delicate sound, this sounds more like an extension of Blueboy's "If Wishes Were Horses" album, with bits of bossa nova ("Imprint", "Alfama") and the Clientele (the general guitar sound) mixed in. Though led by a chap named Jari Hilden, the band also features Sami & Jani of fellow Finnish-pop heroes, Cessna, so it's not surprising to hear some similarities to that band, as well. As the album name might suggest, the band have a shy, reclusive sound, though they do occasionally break out, such as the lush string arrangement on "Alfama" or the upbeat "Mint"." - Chris and Arianne (Indiepages) "The Finnish group Artisokka's lush, comforting songs gently recall the 1960s, but not in the obviously retro way of so many of their contemporaries. They draw from the dreamy, pastoral pop of the past, sounding at times like a less Beach Boys-happy Ladybug Transistor or like the steps towards the past that Belle and Sebastian took on their fine Fold Your HandsÉ LP. In other words, Artisokka's songs are pretty, melodic, and paint atmospheres that evoke the gentle, laidback feelings that are often associated with country living. Bossa nova, folk and psychedelia all inform their music, which is layered with gorgeous instrumentation played just as beautifully, from guitar to cello to piano. "We live in a charming place where people know their names," they sing in one place, "You left your imprint on my heart" in another, all the while leaving the same sort of lasting impression with listeners. Their songs are romantic, drawing us into a world of beauty and love. This is music to fall into, to escape into. - Dave Heaton (Erasing Clouds) "Ik had altijd het idee dat Finland een van de meest depressieve landen op deze aardbol was, dit vooral door de films van Aki Kaurismki. Dat komt waarschijnlijk omdat het daar kouder en donkerder is dan bijvoorbeeld Spanje. Na het luisteren van Artisokka's debuut A Hiding Place In The Arbor moet ik mijn vooroordeel aanpassen. Finland is niet alleen depresief, maar ook erg melancholiek. Want de muziek die Artisokka maakt kan je het dichts plaatsen bij de Kings Of Convience, maar ook The Clientele en The Red House Painters kunnen als voorbeelden worden aangedragen. Lieve liedjes voor bij de open haard. Erg geslaagd!" - Stephan Schipper (Think Small)
A Hiding Place in the Arbor
Catalogue number: LIFE048
Artwork by: Henri Tani
5. Alfama (mp3)
6. Black Puzzle
7. Never Leave Me
8. Cold Winter
9. Offshore ON THE WEB:
www.myspace.com/artisokkanet PRESS DOWNLOADS:
Cover art hi-res
Photo credit: Topi Tanhuanpää