Tuohi Records [Release Date 26.04.19]
‘Another World’ is a suitably titled album that reflects blues-rock guitarist Erja Lyytinen growing musical aspirations. She initially learnt her craft as a slide playing blues guitarist, but in recent years she’s brought a sharper focus to her song writing. She’s been unafraid to delve into personal narratives while simultaneously broadening her musical scope.
And this is ever more so on ‘Another World’, an album that showcases the full range of her guitar playing alongside some expressive vocal phrasing and intuitive band interplay.
She brings together moments of scintillating shredding – all lightning licks and dazzling technique – with more ethereal moments moments and tension breaking lush melodies, bolstered by harmony vocals.
Her guitar playing glues everything together on 9 tracks that straddle hard rock, jazzy fusion and prog rock, as she revels in array of confident tones and contrasting solos.
She sets herself lofty aspirations, as she aims to leave a signature imprint on fast changing genres, sometimes within a single song.
Put simply, ‘Another World’ is the work of a stellar guitarist and maturing songwriter who has the gift of seeing a bigger picture.
‘Another World’ is a challenging piece of work full of musical twists and turns. It’s not so much a linear musical journey as an exploratory musical landscape with plenty of interesting diversions and highlights that stick in the memory like picture post cards.
From the staccato tension building intensity and gnawing tone of ‘Hard As Stone’ with its uplifting melodic harmony guitar break, to the gently paced bonus track of ‘Without You’ – which builds to an angst filled guitar driven finale – this is an album full of musical substance, fuelled by lyrics that range from the emotive to the metaphoric and poignant.
Lyytinen announces her expanding musical direction on the opening ‘Snake In The Grass’, as she delivers an avalanche of lightning licks with special guest Jennifer Batten.
The ripping whammy bar and twin guitar intro gives way to a sudden stop-time vocal with a repeated hook, as a busy drummer Ipe Laitinen adds plenty of bluster.
Both guitars come together on thrilling unison double lines leading us back into a funky verse. It’s an edgy, funky, dynamic piece, which sets a new parameter at the outset.
She slips into some heavy dirty and staccato funk on the jagged riff-driven ‘Cherry Overdrive’, which sounds like a cross between Sue Foley and former Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre.
She adds a timeless car metaphor on a tough rocker with sudden ethereal break, full of fazed harmony vocals, acoustic guitar and Harri Taittonen’s organ. It all leads to a whammy inflected proggy guitar break, complete with some deft tapping.
It’s an impressive opening to an exploratory album that cleverly maximizes her special guest’s talents.
If Jennifer Batten brings blistering chops and different sounds, then slide king Sonny Landreth adds a colourful tonal depth to the album, but not necessarily in the way you might imagine on ‘Wedding Day’.
The tale of infidelity is spun out over double-time boogie that is closer to Deep Purple than his native Louisiana, but the slide break gives the track its sweep and brings further emphasis to the spiky lyrics.
Landreth also guests on the gentle atmospheric ballad ‘Break My Heart Gently’, with subtle ethereal guitar over waves of cymbals, on a startling change of direction from the main body of the album.
It’s a track with real presence, and owes a lot to Peter Green in terms of space, tone and dynamics, as Lyytinen wraps her vocal round the heartfelt lyrics.
‘Torn’ is almost a sister track, opening as a waltz, over some plucked bass notes and a heartfelt vocal that wraps itself round a shifting arrangement with a Celtic undertow.
The whole album hangs on the all encompassing title track which comes early in the sequencing. It’s a vocal tour de force with a defining line: “The only thing that matters is that we survive,” that evokes Todd Rundgren.
A lovely spacey feel features an uplifting vocal and harmonies, counter-weighted by a piercing wah-wah and whammy inflected spiky solo over a stuttering drum pattern and a mid number rap.
The Sci-Fi lyrical duality explores a love in a different dimensions as well as sending out an eco message. It’s a perfect example of her new groundbreaking style that shifts genres within the same song, before finally coming to rest via a tight band outro.
It’s all you might expect from an album that is rich in sonic detail as further evidenced by the big production ‘Miracle’, on which her vocal hovers over a percolating fusiony rhythm track with harmony vocals and tabla percussion. A beautifully constructed proggy solo full of chiming shrill notes leads us back to the hook.
Alongside the title track and ‘Cherry Overdrive’, ‘Miracle’ is both a highlight and a cathartic release as the band stretches out impressively.
‘Another World’ is an exploratory journey with plenty of interesting diversions and highlights that stick in the memory like a picture post card.
From the tension building intensity and a harmony guitar break of ‘Hard As Stone’ to the gently paced ‘Without You’, with its angst filled and guitar driven finale, ‘Another World’ shows you the many facets of a Finland’s polymath who derives her musical accomplishment from a willingness to experiment.
It may not quite be the finished article – it’s much too diverse for that – but there’s so much good stuff here that you will always come back for more. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
Gig review (Oxford, March 2019)
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