A group of people who’ve come together for the purpose of making music – be it a band or some shorter-lived convocation – is like an ensemble of actors. In addition to the charismatic leads it will include vitally important character actors, who bring to the project their own persona in addition to their expertise and experience. And they do it in a way that serves the piece. This sets them apart from the ambulatory meat puppets that phone it in time after time and the explosive one trick ponies – in both music and movies.
In movies, other actors have a lot of respect for character actors. In music, there are players who are respected by their peers, but fairly unknown to the general public – you may have run across the phrase “a guitarist’s guitarist”?
Award-winning producer, composer and musician Jaakonaho is just such a musical character actor and his scope is considerable, running from classic Finnish artists to today’s top pop stars, as well as more marginal styles like progressive rock or East African folk pop.
Character actors often make for good directors. Jaakonaho’s solo debut Ghost Riot is like the first movie by a respected character actor – a distillation of all the experience from a long career, married to a strong and unique vision. A profound understanding of music and different styles is evident on the record, as well as a strong orientation towards sounds, which has made him such an in-demand producer. Vision and experience mean that Jaakonaho makes courageous choices and creates strong atmospheres, sometimes by using contradictory elements.
Ghost Riot is a journey to the ends of the world and the listener makes it without physically moving. The music retains a steady orientation towards its roots, too. Despite all the South and North American, as well as African influences and amid its fervent reaching out into the world, the music sounds very Finnish.
Movies are a strong presence on this record. It’s not something I made up to sound clever – not all of it anyway. Calling instrumental music cinematic is so clichéd it makes my teeth hurt, but the album sometimes wears its influences on its sleeve and the melodies are so dramatic as well as narrative that you can’t sidestep the fact. Which is totally fine! Ghost Riot by Jaakonaho, a talented character actor in full control of the studio and a whole slew of string instruments, is a movie about surprising encounters, happenstance and communication between people.
Jussi Jaakonaho is the Stanley Tucci of Finnish music.
– Arttu Tolonen, 2017