Kalle Kalima – High Noon
(ACT 9596-2. CD review by Henning Bolte)
As its title High Noon suggests, this album has to do with cowboys and western movies. Cowboys are a real myth, they mainly exist as creatures of the cinematic imagination. The music of these three gentlemen, Finnish guitarist Kalle Kalima, young German drummer Max Andrzejewski and North-American bassist Greg Cohen (Tom Waits, John Zorn’s Masada), also thrives on a rich imagination. While this kind of music may be a birthright for the Cohen as an American, for the other two younger musicians it has been exotic music which has become indigenous to them through mass media. The TV series “Bonanza” (1959-1973) might be the most prolific and poweful example.
So the cowboy myth and its musical expressions have been filtered here through three different upbringings, a Finnish, a Californian and German one, as part of the memory of their childhood. The Finns know quite well how to incorporate the popular myths of the Western into their own culture. They do it in their very own crooked, hilarious, slightly self-ironic way. Due to a special combination of seriousness and clumsiness German adaptations often go with unintentionally comical effects of quite special charms. This trio definitely knows how to create a suggestive unity of a kind out of the hotchpotch (American), Sammelsurium (German) or Sillisalaati (Finnish) of pieces: four pieces of Hollywood film composer Dimitri Tiomkin at the centre and songs of Marty Robbins and Leonard Cohen next to and against pieces by Jean Sibelius and Hiski Salomaa.
Kalle Kalima is an experienced guitarist with a dry, shrewd twist, equipped with forest spirit, urban versatility and well-dosed Finnish humour. He is fond of classic cinema and has made albums of his own with related music, e.g. one inspired by the cinema of Stanley Kubrick. He has been part of the Berlin scene for a while but also plays a lot with his compatriots in Finland. Besides guitarreros as Frank Möbus and Ronny Graupe he is one of the most prominent guitar voices in Germany. It seems he has an inexhaustible source of ideas at his disposal how to rearrange known stuff, transform it into some pleasant strangeness of a kind. Amongst many others he is part of Johnny La Marmara, KUU of Jelena Kuljic and Frank Gratkowski’s Z-Country Paradise also with Jelena Kuljic, all quite exciting crossover examples.
Kalima’s reshaping was always going to sound very different from recent prairie rides of Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz – and indeed it does. Kalima’s rides are not only in bright landscape format but often in close-up too, always with a great timing of a rich variety of his guitarist sound colours and textures. There is certain rawness; the music is visceral, more angular and a bit fractious and dark. There are revealing sequences like that of the title track High Noon (from the Fred Zinneman western with Gary Cooper (1952) and El Paso (from the Lewis R. Foster western (1949)) followed by Leonard Cohen’s Halleluja with its magisterial bass and economic, pungent drums.
Kalima, Cohen and Andrzejewski enable listeners to recognize this song as a glorious transmutation of all prairie rides. There are more great transitions and crackling contrasts. This album provides the kind of energy rush that makes one want to graffiti – or to provide joky captions – for the cover of the album.