Oddarrang Interview: “The Stranger And More Unpredictable The Better.”

New Album Agartha  Available On 23 September Via Edition Records.

After listening to a myriad of music for years and years and years, it is not uncommon to get a bit disillusioned. Sometimes one tends to think that everything has been done before and that music was better in the past. It’s the dad syndrome I guess. Nostalgia gets the better of you. If you are currently suffering such a bout, then I would recommend some Oddarrang. A Finnish quintet, the band meld a wonderfully and intriguingly disparate number of musical influences. Folk passages give way to jazz chords which in turn soar into post rock explorations flecked with synth. Songs ebb and flow with a natural ease, building to well earned and cathartic crescendos. Listen in the dark with a good pair of headphones for maximum effect.

Recently, the group’s ringleader Olavi Louhivuori had a chat with us about the group’s upcoming new album Agartha, their love of myths and legends, and how they enjoy challenging their audience.

Overblown: Your new album is called Agartha and is named after the mythical city of the same name that is said to be located in the Earth’s core. What attracted you to this legend?

Odderrang: I remember first time hearing about this place when I was in high school, and the whole myth (hollow earth, giants inhabiting it etc..) immediately struck me as something completely bizarre and something I could never have imagined or thought myself. I forgot the whole thing for many years, until a couple of years ago the legend came back from a book that I was reading to my son. I started to investigate the myth more and quite a few interesting stories, analogies and interpretations about it emerged and got me really interested.

Some variations of the myth have been used in Buddhism, Theosophy, New Age, Hinduism..it can be seen as an analogy to our inner world. For me it also turns my gaze towards our planet and gives an environmental angle to it too. So even though I can’t say I would believe in an actual Agartha, I think there are spiritual and environmental aspects that I found important and interesting for me. And it’s quite an epic concept, which gives us a great chance to write some epic music!

Overblown: The music you create is quite exploratory and progressive and yet also maintains a very grounded and raw folk influenced atmosphere. Is it important to you to find a balance between the two?

Oddarrang: I don’t write music very rationally, so I’m not very much aware of different influences I’m using. I do like to have strong melodies, so maybe that gives the listener a feeling of those two worlds (exploratory vs folk) combining. I want to make music that feels fresh for me and gives me a feeling of exploring. The stranger and more unpredictable the path I’m going to with my music the better.

Overblown: This will be your fourth album. How has your approach to writing and recording changed over the years?

Oddarrang: I think I’ve learned a lot during these years. Learned as a composer, producer, musician, and human being. So it all makes it a lot easier for me to make music. Nowadays I know better where I want to go with my music and what I want it to sound like (or even more what I don’t want my music to sound like)

Overblown: I presume the song ‘Admiral Byrd’s Flight’ refers to the American explorer Richard R. Byrd Jr. What influence did he have on this track?

Oddarrang: This is Osmo’s song but I came up with the name. I think the song has a great form (three individual strong parts) to imagine Byrd’s flight. How in the story he first left the Earth, then dived inside the Earth… and finally came back.

Overblown: Another song on the album is called ‘Age of Cronos’. Cronos, according to myth, was one of the youngest of the Greek titans. You seem to be very interested in myth and legend. What attracts you to these tales?

Oddarrang: Yes, it’s true that we have an interest for myths and legends… Actually this name comes from the Greek Hyperborea legend, which our bassist Lasse knew (he’s our myth-expert!) and we found it kind of connected to the myth of Agartha. But yes..it’s a good question. I love concept albums and this is our second concept album (our previous album In Cinema is a concept album too). It makes composing much easier and much more fun when you have an inspiring story already in your head that you can use as an inspirator. Also, I think that since our music is quite cinematic and arouses visual imagination in many of our listeners, this is one way to support that experience. To have an imaginary world and story around the music. That being said it’s very important for me not to make music that is trying to explain itself too much. I want to leave as much space as possible to the listener to create his/hers own explanations for the music.

Making a concept album is also my response to the dying of the album as an artform. Meaning, many people are saying that streaming is killing the art of albums and making music listening more one-track-orientated for younger generations. I don’t want that. I love albums! (note, actually this song is NOT included on CD & Vinyl, but is a bonus track only available as a download)

Overblown: The new album sees you record tracks with vocals for the first time. What encouraged you explore the use of vocals?

Oddarrang: I’ve wanted to use vocals for a long time, but haven’t really found a good way of doing that. We’ve been using some wordles vocals previously, but using lyrics is a new step. I think it’s just one of those things we never did before and now we felt it was time to do it. And it felt natural (and fun) like this. The song with lyrics is Osmo’s song and he wrote the lyrics and suggested this idea for his song.

Overblown: For me, Agartha is a very special record. Do you feel you have hit a creative peak with the album?

Oddarrang: This is very nice to hear..and I have to say I’m very proud of the album. I do have a feeling that this album is a result of our long and steady evolution as a band, so you could call it as a creative peak for us in a way. All our previous albums are steps that eventually took us where we are now. I love all our albums in their own way, but this has a really special place for me because of this “evolution”.

Overblown: What are your touring plans for Agartha?

Oddarrang: We starting our tour in September from Finland, will play shows in Belgium in October, then the Berlin Jazzfest and a couple of other German cities & the London Jazz Festival in November, and we also tour in Finland in November/December. And in February 2017 we’re going back to Germany to do another tour. So it looks very good! Can’t say how excited we are to get to play this music live.

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