Drowsy Growing Green

[FatCat; 2005]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: acid folk, New Weird Finland, melancholy psych-pop, singer-songwriter
Others: Nick Drake, Tom Waits, Robert Wyatt, Animal Collective

Growing Green, the new record from Finland's Mauri Heikkinen, a.k.a. Drowsy, is a tantalizing conundrum. First off, it's worth noting that Heikkinen, at only 22 years of age, is enormously impressive in his ability to demonstrate a maturity that extends well beyond his years. His talent for multi-instrumentalism, coupled with affective, yet simple songwriting is apparent as well. Mercifully, Drowsy choose to adhere to a more traditional folk song structure on Growing Green, rather than toeing the free-folk line and producing another album packed with "New Weird Finland" psych-folk, a la Kemialliset Ystavat, Avarus, et al. (who, incidentally, are absolutely wonderful in their own right).

The album opens with "Some Cursing," a seemingly straightforward folk track that features growling vocals and begins with the lines, "You are all whores/ and I hate you all." Additionally, Heikkinen's singing on this piece sounds as if it would not be out of place on a release from Projekt Records or Cold Meat Industries. The vocals have an almost gothic/darkwave sensibility on this track that contrasts nicely with Heikkinen's acoustic guitar playing. The track is followed by "Harmless," which showcases Drowsy's talent for creating melancholy, beautiful, and intricate piano melodies. Drowsy's arrangements are subtle and understated, though elegant in their simplicity. Though the press release describes the songs are being reminiscent of Syd Barrett and Robert Wyatt, Growing Green is probably more aptly described as sounding something like a 1970s acid folk band like Comus or The Incredible String Band if they were fronted by circa-1973 Tom Waits. Heikkiinen clearly demonstrates that he is a capable balladeer, adept at playing the piano, organ, acoustic guitar, and harmonica.

Heikkenen's vocals on several tracks (the aforementioned "Some Cursing," along with "I Died of Death" and "Plim Plom Autumn Song") have a wizened, grizzly quality, coupled with a slightly inebriated edge that makes him sound almost like some crusty seaside vagabond out of a Lovecraft story. Indeed, Heikkinen is from Joutseno, a coastal village in Finland known for its paper mills. The songs on Growing Green are infused with a sense of loneliness that is likely the result of no small measure of geographic isolation. The record also resonates with a palpable timelessness. Growing Green could truly have been recorded at any time during the past four decades.

It is interesting to note that Growing Green's individual tracks all sound as if they were mastered from different sources. One piece might sound as if it was recorded onto an old, chewed-up cassette, and then remastered, while another could have been sourced from vinyl. Growing Green is a distinctly lo-fi release with a rough, unpolished edge. Any electronic programming on the record basically blends seamlessly in with the rest of the arrangements. FatCat's background information states that the record's fourteen tracks were recorded at various times over the past three years. However, despite the heterogeneity of Growing Green, it does not feel like a compilation of various and sundry random tracks. Rather, the album gels into a cohesive whole. It's a melancholy, autumnal release worthy of repeated listens for fans of Finnish folk and otherwise.

1. Some Cursing
2. Harmless
3. Yellow Leaves & White Trees
4. Careless Me
5. Bright Dawn
6. I Watch the Sky
7. Growing Green
8. Cryosleep
9. No Footprints No Trail
10. I Died of Death
11. Great Scintillates
12. Plim Plom Autumn Song
13. Reclining, The Minds Slowly Sway
14. Home Hits