Timo Kaukolampi, frontman for Finnish electronic rock group K-X-P and tireless sonic wanderer, is releasing his second solo album, this time on Optimo Music. Exquisitely rendered, shadowy, curiously claustrophobic and even occasionally paranoid, Inside The Sphere is an album wholly deserving of its name.
A sense of paranoia is one of the threads through this glittering, winking electronic maze. Kaukolampi says “I came up with this metaphysical concept of the “sphere”. When you are manipulated you are ‘Inside The Sphere’. It’s like this dome of ‘undue influence’ that you don’t know exists around you. It’s a bit like the inside of a cult.”
Indeed, it’s amazing the effects achieved with a few sparse electronic textures, the odd smattering of studio trickery, and two or three well-placed synthesizer parts. Though the result might sound ostensibly simplistic, Inside The Sphere is an album of reduction rather than addition. The rhythmic and textural scaffolding is based around what’s not there, rather than what is. Take ‘VCS3’. At first listen, it seems forged from a few synth lines and a simple percussion part – so far, so simple. But listen closer, enter the sphere, look behind the mask – notice the slightly detuned drones, the chattering percussive textures, that distant swell of bass, the way the central fugue shifts and mutates somehow statically, like a barber’s pole.
Might we be listening to an album within an album, a more complex song cycle hiding within the folds of an ambient electronic album? This ties in with another of Kaukolampi’s thematic frameworks – that of the mask. He references Oscar Wilde’s quotation that “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
Inside The Sphere is not a one-note album. For every moment where a clammy ambient space enters, a buttery analogue bassline is there to fill it. This clash seems to be the album’s engine room, its power supply.
Timo references devotional and choir music as an influence on this album. The paranoia and foreboding is tempered by these headier aspects. Kaukolampi mentions “empty and hollow spaces” in relation to several of the songs. Perhaps this is the very space behind the mask, where outward disguise merges with inner reality. Perhaps inside the sphere is not always such a bad place to be.