Janne Hanhisuanto: Light and Shadow

When Finnish ambient artist Janne Hanhisuanto promises you both Light and Shadow, rest assured that you will get excellent examples of both, in nicely balanced measure. In this eight-part disc, Hanhisuanto offers an always-engaging path that travels from classically spacey, “choirs of angels” ambient down through misty, murky spaces and ends with a genuinely breathtakingly beautiful piece that lands squarely in the middle. Most of the work here is pulled together in standard ambient structures–there are big, cloud-like pads that ease across the frame in their own good time, those breathy vocal sounds, twinkles of synthesizer starlight. But they’re handled well enough to not feel stagnantly typical. At the outset, a sense of easy relaxation takes hold, and it’s a pleasure just to fall into the sound. I quite like that when the shift in tone comes, it’s not a new track; rather, Hanhisuanto takes the fairly bold stroke of changing the quality of light mid-stream in one track. Right as you’ve settled in to this peaceful flow, it gets different. The darker side of the voyage is built on layers of minor chords and long bass notes that anchor the bottom. At the end of Part 5, Hanhisuanto raises the intensity with a rising, sharp wash of sound that deposits us in a calmer space (Part 6) where light clatters of percussion tint the backdrop. There’s a sense of discovery to this piece, of having come through something and taking a short respite. Part 7 continues the upward sense, though it passes through moments of uncertainty. Hanhisuanto closes Light and Shadow by bringing in a melody that courses over the return of the soft vocal pads. The earthy touch of the singular notes contrasts nicely with the intangible aspects of the drifts through which we’ve passed. There’s a reverence and a sense of hopeful relief that rises upward and delivers a real feeling of closure to the journey. I’ve enjoyed Hanhisuanto’s last few CDs since he first came to my attention, but Light and Shadow has secured its place as my favorite. Great at low volume, superb on a close listen, and ideal for long, looped listens. You must hear Light and Shadow.

Available at CD Baby.

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