The Finnish artist’s solo selection of delicate and ethereal compositions for piano, electronics and the incredible, one-of-a-kind Omniwerk.
Aki Rissanen is a pianist of formidable talent and one of the most praised and highly regarded jazz musicians to emerge from the super-creative and original Finnish Jazz scene. As a leader he has released three albums with his long standing trio: Amorandom (2016), Another North (2017) and Art in Motion (2019). With Divided Horizon, he’s chosen a more sophisticated and solitary path, focussing on solo piano and the unique instrument, the Omniwerk.
Divided Horizon originates from a contrasting duality in Aki’s music. An older, classical sound reminiscent of the baroque era is combined with a minimalist influence and electronic abstraction. It’s this blend that gives Aki his distinctive sound and identity. Conceptually, its bursting with originality and integrity, the sound quality is pristine, the playing rhythmic and shining with brilliance.
Here we have a pianist of exceptional ability, bringing together new elements in a way never heard before. The Omniwerk is an instrument of unique conception – an experimental hybrid keyboard invented by Finnish instrument builders Jonte Knif and Jukka Ollikka inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s original concept. It both plucks and bows, combining a Baroque-era lute-harpsichord and violin sound in one.
Aki explains how the Omniwerk played a role in the album and what excited him about this opportunity to play this rare instrument.
“I composed the main part of the songs for the grand piano and left the Omniwerk to be a ‘wild card’, something I add to the grand piano tracks. However I ended up recording a few free improvisations which I didn’t plan before and the tracks ‘Omniwerk Interlude’ and ‘Deciphered’ are the result. The Omniwerk eventually became an essential part of the album. I have played a couple of solo concerts with the instrument a few years ago and definitely will play it more in the future. You need to approach the instrument completely the opposite from the piano: you can alter the sound after the key is pressed, the touch is very different and you have to be familiar with how every key works – each of them have different personalities! The instrument is a composer’s and player’s wonderland – you can make it sound like a complete string orchestra from the Baroque era or completely avant-garde. Especially experimental things – sounds like you have never heard before!”
Playing solo has always been a natural way for Aki to share his music. He loves playing acoustically, but also loves to use the possibilities of the studio where he can create music not possible live. As he explains: “I like to overdub multiple tracks and use the computer’s recording software as an instrument itself. I’ve always loved to play electronic keyboards as well and I occasionally use a synthesiser in this album. Some songs were played live, completely acoustic, and I wanted to keep these as the ‘main sound’ of the record. But there are also songs built in the studio using a grand piano and Omniwerk and in addition a synthesiser providing extra spice. I did not use any acoustic or electric preparations with the grand piano sound but I played the Omniwerk in as many ways as possible. For example I used the natural, plucked sound; I muted the strings with my fingers; I played the bowed, string-like sound and searched for overtones to sound like a hurdy-gurdy. I sampled the Omniwerk as well with the computer and sequenced it in the recording software”.
Divided Horizon is yet another album highlighting the brilliance of Aki Rissanen’s musicianship and adding to his impressive catalogue. There’s no doubt of his importance as a leading Finnish musician but with each release his importance in Europe and further afield grows. This is serious music that requires serious listening, but the rewards are so much greater.
released June 9, 2022
Aki Rissanen - Piano and Omniwerk
All songs composed by Aki Rissanen.
Bonfire Ballet was commissioned by Southbank Centre in London for the Adventures in Moominland exhibition.
Produced by Aki Rissanen
Executive producer Dave Stapleton
Recorded by Mikko Raita at Kallio-Kuninkala Studio, Järvenpää, Finland on August 21 & 22 and September 23 & 24, 2020. Assistant engineer Joonas Kaartti. Additional recordings at Studio Porra, Helsinki, Finland on January 13 & 14, 2021.
Mixed by Mikko Raita at Studio Kekkonen, Helsinki, Finland on February 8, 11 & 16, 2021.
Mastered by Svante Forsbäck at Chartmakers West, Espoo, Finland on February 19, 2021.
Album Artwork by Oli Bentley
Piano Steinway D, tuned by Pekka Savolainen. Omniwerk maintained by Jonte Knif.
Thank you Kone Foundation, Suomen Musiikintekijät and everyone involved in the making of this album.
Pianist Aki Rissanen has quickly risen to a position among the top pianists in Finnish Jazz. Although originally classically
trained he has always had a feeling for improvised music and jazz. Rissanen is known for his work with Verneri Pohjola and with Dave Liebman. He has released seven albums under his own name and is gaining a growing reputation on the European jazz scene....more