Sorb-i-tol - Piste ©2000 Plastic Passion Records
1. Malpaso
2. Freeze!
3. "S" Is Back
4. Obesa
5. Piste
6. The Street Of Liza
7. Five A.M.

Worlds apart from As Divine Grace, and yet similar in an especially important way, Jukka Sillanpää's electro-ambient-jazz side project Sorb-i-tol create the 70s police and agent movies vibe through the ingenious use of sound effects and big band-style orchestration. Their recently released instrumental album, Piste, is divided into two sections (rather, cases), entitled "Operation Goatland" and "Operation Beartown". The first "case" comprises four songs that were composed by the band after they were signed to Plastic Passion in 1999, while the last three tracks were recorded during a live session back in '96.

"Operation Goatland" incorporates a movie soundtrack influence, giving these four songs a "background" or "atmospheric" element that makes them perfect for nighttime reading and relaxing. Mission One, "Malpaso", with its highly punctuated brass, is a short, jazzy opener for the more swingin', funkier "Freeze!", which uses a whole range of brass and wind instruments layered over a continuous rhythm and seemingly random electronic sounds. As with most big band music, the song's structural complexity leaves little room for improvisation. "'S' is Back" begins as most smooth jazz, lounge music would, before it too swells to a frenetic climax. This track in particular has an active bass section. Closing the case on "Goatland", "Obesa" is more ambient and electronic than the rest, signaling what the remainder of Piste has in store.

Because they resemble extended jam sessions, the last three tracks are quite long and become tiring to follow as the music meanders. Nevertheless they provide great music to which one falls asleep. "Piste", like "Obesa", uses less brass and more ambient electronic; unlike "Obesa", there's not much of a structure to the music, which has an improvisational jazz sensibility (although Jukka says they were composed prior to the concert). Nearly fifteen minutes in length, "The Street of Liza" has a distinctive typewriter-like percussion and a squeaky synthesized noise over piano. Piste ends with "Five A.M.", which I believe incorporates a Theremin, or a synth-generated Theremin sound effect.

What impresses me most is how seamlessly the dissimilar sounds and effects come together; the music is rich and complex, yet continuous. Track this and his other bands' albums down, just about everything Jukka Sillanpää has composed is a surefire winner.

Review by Jeffrey Shyu

Review date: 06/2000

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