[Zen Master Records, 2016]
Intro: Dimitris Kaltsas
Translation: Niki Nikolakaki
06 / 12 / 2016
Utopianisti is the musical vehicle of the Finnish multi-instrumentalist Markus Pajakkala and was formed in 2010. Pajakkala is the sole composer who plays the drums, woodwinds and some keys and takes on his shoulders engineering and orchestration, with the line-up being different from track to track, at least in the first two albums, Utopianisti (2011) and Utopianisti II (2013). It is more than reasonable to guess that the musical style has the same “stability”, moving from jazz-rock to 70s progressive rock, from Balkan gypsy to tango or latin and from avant-garde to operatic metal. All this is true up to this year’s The Third Frontier, where Utopianisti appear again this time with a steady line-up, more targeted compositions and justifiably high expectations.
A unique blend of avant-fusion
The steady line-up of Utopianisti in The Third Frontier is depicted in the musical result of the album from the first hearings already. More specific in style and compositions, Utopianisti are attempting a brave mixing of different yet related prog subgenres. The avant-prog of Frank Zappa and Samla Mammas Manna meets the characteristic Scandinavian fusion, with a few touches from the scene of Canterbury and the German jazz / krautrock to color their musical mosaic. Their tremendously high technical level provides flexibility and comfort in experimenting and changing moods and atmospheres whenever they judge it is necessary.
The entire range of their influences stretches uniquely in the nine great compositions of The Third Frontier. The completely rock-in-opposition Voodoo Mammoths From Neptune that opens the album, introduces the listener directly into the universe of Utopianisti, with the adventurous Spanking Season and 13 Demons In The Disco Dimension following a similar direction. In the excellent Universe For Dummies and Life As We Thought We Knew It we come in contact with the most melodic and fusion character of the band, while the quite groovy Dr. Gravity’s Evil Plan and A Hundred Rabbits accurately reflect their comfort in experimenting and adding other elements in their music, such as some funk and psych touches. For the end I left on purpose (as probably them as well) the flawless The Last Reflection, a composition with an amazing introduction, an awesome interpretation from Suvi Väyrynen, a scalable peak and awesome melody. It can easily be considered as one of the top songs of 2016.
With the production by Markus Pajakkala himself consisting a key factor to highlight the whole musical arsenal of Utopianisti, the Finns were able to offer us one of the best-quality albums of the current year. Perhaps the humour that they have adopted from Frank Zappa is the reason they seem not to be taking themselves so seriously. If they invest more in the standard band character, we will see even greater things in the future.
8.5 / 10
If someone said that we can expect everything from Markus Pajakkala and co, this would be annoyingly apparent and obvious, right? Probably not, because what we hear in The Third Frontier is something we wouldn’t expect, let’s be honest. The steady line-up of Utopianisti delivers masterful jazz / fusion prog with the avant-prog / RIO element crystallized without unnecessary deviations, in line with the spirit of Frank Zappa and Pekka Pohjola, with unpredictable shifts of rhythms and style. Αmazing funky groove, 70s cinematographic lyricism, tongue-in-cheek humour, the highest level of technique and tracks that stick insidiously to our minds. No doubt about whether this is the best album of Utopianisti. The question now is how many albums of 2016 are better than The Third Frontier. Probably not many.
8.5 / 10