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Uzva - Tammikuinen Tammela CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.52 | 29 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 'Tammikuinen Tammela' - Uzva (58/100)

Uzva's second album Niittoaika ranks among the more promising albums I've heard lately. Although prog fusion is far from alien to most fans of progressive rock, it was the way they brought jazz in with the progressive traditions that made Uzva's sound and style so compelling. Unsurprisingly, the refreshing experience I had with Niittoaika impelled me to explore further into Uzva's relatively small discography. Anyways, here we have it: Tammikuinen Tammela, a debut that released quietly two years prior to its successor at the turn of the millennium. As I expected, the rich arrangements and thoughtfully restrained performances were part of Uzva from an early stage. Unfortunately, in spite of their strong technique and interesting stylistic foundations, Uzva's debut lacks the focus and purposeful momentum that made Niittoaika such a hit with me.

I don't believe I'd be making such a far stretch in calling Tammikuinen Tammela an example of 'lounge prog'; while Uzva are clearly capable of pulling off instrumental complexities of a Gentle Giant or King Crimson nature, they purposefully keep things mellow and light for the most part. Moments like the energetic, clarinet-led opening riff to "Part IV" allude to potential Uzva have yet untapped; for the most part, Tammikuinen Tammela takes the form of a laid-back, largely acoustic interplay between musicians. While Niittoaika and their third record Uoma may be defined (albeit prolematically) as a prog-jazz fusion, Tammikuinen Tammela would be relatively well-placed as chamber rock. Unlike many of the 'chamber rock' acts I'm familiar with (Aranis and Univers Zero, to name a couple), Uzva favour individual expression over rigid composition. Uzva's jazz influences aren't terribly apparent on the debut, but based on the fluid and not always apparent structure of their songwriting, it's not surprising they evolved into a jazzier act later on.

It's conceivable that this loose-yet-richly-layered sort of chamber rock exploration could have worked wonders- potentially even more than the later works which left less up to chance. The technical interplay is certainly here, but Tammikuinen Tammela is held back by how restrained and lacklustre the music often sounds in spite of the obvious technical skill. While dynamic and instrumental fireworks are by no means essential for great jazz, chamber rock or even prog, Uzva's decision to keep things light and meandering is a death knell for the album. It's clear from the harmonies and unison that Uzva composed the music with great care, but the muted energy and consonant harmonies feel hollowed somewhat by the lack of other elements of composition, namely purposeful structure, melodic hooks, a sense of build-up and dynamic. To be fair, there are parts of Tammikuinen Tammela that kick it up a notch (see: the aforementioned intro to "Part IV", or the album's jazz-rock and marimba-infused finale) but it's not enough to put the leisurely parts in context.

Tammikuinen Tammela is a portfolio of some excellent musicianship and talent with harmony-based arrangements. It may have been as engaging as Niittoaika too, if it had anything else to offer on top of that. True to the chamber music tradition, the performance feels amplified and simultaneously limited by the austere composition-based restrictions it places on itself. In the case of Tammikuinen Tammela, it feels like there are inspired performances wanting to get out and place an even greater emphasis on the musicians' individual expression (arguably being the strongest part of Uzva's debut) but it seems the band are torn between letting their spontaneity and dynamism run free, or focusing their structure and performance. As it turns out, with Niittoaika two years later, they chose the latter approach, and haven't looked back since.

Conor Fynes | 3/5 |


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