Tony Marcus, New Musical Express, 17 June 1995
These are bad times for ambient techno. Since Mike 'µ-Ziq' Paradinas and The Aphex Twin detonated the genre with attitude, distortion and easy listening, The Black Dog have split, Mixmaster Morris is shifting towards ambient jungle and Warp are rumo ured to have rejected B12's latest LP.
But in Finland there's a guy called Jouni Alkio making classic ambient techno under the name AURAL EXPANSION. Last year he released his debut LP Exercises In Expansion on Finland's Dum Records. It sold an impressive 500 copies - and in Finland, tha t is impressive.
"Well, this is a quiet country," offers Alkio, by way of explanation.
Like fellow Finnish label Sähkö, Dum use cardboard sleeves and hand-drawn artwork to package lo-fi, analogue tunes. In contrast to earlier, almost Zen-like Dum productions, Jouni's LP was complex and intricate. Inevitably, it found its way into the boxes of chill-out jocks across the world.
But despite the modest sales and acclaim from electronica's elite, Jouni's philosophy is far removed from the wilful obscurity and weirder-than-thou stance of some experimentalists.
"For a track to be interesting," he acknowledges, "it has to be strange and listenable at the same time. If something is too experimental, you can't listen to it."
Having said that, he's not bothered that his records aren't populist enough for the dancefloor.
"I wouldn't have anything against them if people did dance to it," he concedes generously, "but I see it more for active listening."
Now 24, Helsinki-based Jouni's been making music for about seven years. He hardly buys any records, hardly goes to clubs but admits to being a huge LFO fan.
Although he currently works part-time as a computer consultant at a commercial high-school, a full-time immersion in music is looking likely. Belgian label Crammed Discs have poached him from Dum and re-released Exercises... with some new tracks an d a new title, Surreal Sheep.
Is that because Finland's got a lot of sheep or something? Nothing that simple, of course.
"There is one sound towards the end of the track that sounded like a sheep going 'baaa'. So I thought, Surreal Sheep sounded a bit catchy." Who said fluffy techno was dead?
Copyright © 1995 NME