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“Hämärästä aamunkoihin” by Juha Jyrkäs

Mortality doesn’t have to be presented in predictably grim framing to find its way into the center of a really powerful song, and if ever there was a track to prove this with its very existence, “Hämärästä aamunkoihin” just might qualify. Penned and performed by the incomparable Juha Jyrkäs, “Hämärästä aamunkoihin” unfolds rather stoically, only to transform into something rather primal and strangely sophisticated in size by the time we reach the halfway point in the song. It is neither modern nor traditional, experimental nor conventional. Truth be told, I don’t really know how to describe this work – other than to say you need to give it a listen as soon as possible. 

The respect Jyrkäs has for his chosen medium becomes rather undebatable by the time we first get a peek at his vocals in this track, which are projected with such a deep, impossibly honest romanticism for his to be anything other than a genuine narrative. His legitimacy as a player is never called into question, but instead only his choice of venue for this particular performance; had I been in charge, I would have suggested something even more acoustically challenging than a studio to offer this unparalleled tribute to the gods of music and man the same. 

You can’t get the same tonality from contemporary instrumentation as you can the tools of yesteryear, and Jyrkäs’ use of the kantele beside Milla Asikainen’s dual vocal and Pekka Konkela’s percussion creates definition on this end of the track we wouldn’t have heard anywhere else. He’s thinking outside of the box from the ground up and paying a lot of attention to the historical nature of his Finnish folk-influenced composition; thus, from even the subtlest detail to the keen tonal essence something like an electric kantele can contribute to a song, it’s going to be present here. 

The lyrics meld with this melodic backdrop all too seamlessly for us to notice where vocals end and the virtuosity of collaborative play begins in this single, which isn’t to say the mixing isn’t well-defined by any means – quite the contrary. As they’re sung to us in Finnish, the verses “The darkest night has come to me, The morning is yet so far away, I can’t get sleep, My thoughts are messing with my head,” take on such a weightier meaning than they would have had on their own, enriched by the anti-harmonies sprouting beneath and through them in this recording. 

“Hämärästä aamunkoihin” is quite the superb addition to a year’s soundtrack that has been filled with some of the most interesting avant-garde works to see widespread, international release in well over a decade and a half, and if you haven’t yet heard it – or the works of Juha Jyrkäs overall – I’d put it towards the top of your must-listen list this June. The European underground is fraught with immersive listening experiences from one end of the pop spectrum to the other, but if you’re looking for something so potent yet minimalistic that it feels almost otherworldly, Jyrkäs’ body of work might be the best collection of songs to examine. 

Mindy McCall



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