KIMI KÄRKI – THE BONE OF MY BONES (SVART RECORDS)
“In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.”
– Francis Bacon
Full disclaimer: The Bone of My Bones is not a metal album. Instead, it’s a lush neo-folk album made by Kimi Kärki, also known to doom hounds as Peter Vicar or Peter Inverted. The multi-instrumentalist – who is primarily known as a guitarist and vocalist – spent 12 years in tumultuous Finnish doom legends Reverend Bizarre. After the band folded, he formed Lord Vicar. Meanwhile, the Bizarre lineup continued on in a different guise as Orne; Kärki has also worked with E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr and Uhrijuhla. Crushing, groovy, glacial paced stylings mark his other musical output, The Bone of My Bones is a departure. Undoubtedly, his integrative and experimental approach carries into the folk and ambient electronica release, but this is much quieter, sparser and marked by deeply personal introspection.
“I am definitely sometimes in the need of quiet, minimalist, calm music, to balance things. I love strong melodies and beautiful harmonies as much as the hardest heaviest and meanest riff out there,” writes Kärki, who has just returned from a tour with Lord Vicar. As it is with most ambitious overachievers, he is busy with other things: working on his PhD, teaching at the University of Turku on the southwestern coast of Finland, and preparing for his album release.
“I think my soul needs both Diabolus in Musica and the Heavenly Harp. I think our culture is in the permanent state of spiritual schizophrenia anyway, and want to explore that multitude of meanings and visions with a curious outlook on life.”
As a Finnish historian who specializes in the history and cultural context of popular music, Kärki is unusually descriptive in language and his music is intellectually laden and purposeful. The Bone of My Bones is no exception.
“I find that more and more I am thinking about the state that exists between sleep and waking up, the meditative states of consciousness, the logic and honesty of a dream,” he writes. “All those experiences are somehow manifested there in an inspiring and somehow ‘pure’ way. You could say I am after a certain innocence now with my songwriting.”
In practice, this meant The Bone of My Bones focuses on “dreams and memories, personal feelings” and historical events revolving around religion. Puritanism, which was explored frequently by Reverend Bizarre, rears its head as well.
“I have indeed been long interested in the cultural forms of religious totalitarianism. I also think that once you use religious dogmas to suppress libido and personal freedom, the results can be terrible,” writes Kärki. Consequently, lyrics reference the pleasure of masturbation and sex, the fear and distaste for such pleasure as embodied by the values of Puritanism, and much more. In contrast, the music often drifts about dreamily: accentuated by organs, string parts, synthesizers, classical guitar and gorgeous vocal work. While Kärki provides a pleasing baritone, accents, leads and harmonies are delivered by Mat McNerney (Hexvessel, Beastmilk), the clean, high soprano of Anna-Elena Pääkkölä, the jazzy croon of Pirita Känkänen and the sombre, low vocals of John Richardson. Indeed, it’s a thoroughly Finnish affair.
“I think we all carry our cultures within and express them through our identities. I speak in plural, as I strongly think these things are complex and are re-contextualized in any social setting we become part of,” explains Kärki. Indeed, a literal translation of album artwork and title – which allude to the creation of woman from the rib of man in the Book of Genesis – could be correlated to cultural context, as Finland has a long entrenched history of Christianity. But Kärki has more subtlety and intelligence than that.
“Yes, there is Finnishness in everything I do, but I am not focusing to express it in any specific way.” He concludes, “It’s part of my tone, the way I look at life, my humour and sometimes the lack of it. I think every voice is unique.”
Buy The Bone of My Bones from Svart Records on December 5.
By Sarah Kitteringham
Photo: Jarkko Pietarinen