“(I have no clue, so I will) Listen & Learn” is Finnish artist Hanna Ojala’s most ambitious composition to date. She drew partially on Pond5: The Public Domain Project for source material not only in sampling sound and video footage for her own short film made for the piece but as a kind of aesthetic template through which to explore methods of social control from the past and how there is an eerie resonance for the present. One imagines one hears Ojala’s own voice reading from scientific abstracts but maybe it’s her commentary on the metaphysical underpinnings of human existence and how we treat identity as a justification for social stratification processed and placed in the soundscape with the quality of an old record while a simple melody runs through and ambient, atmospheric sounds and a bit from an old blues singer lamenting the human condition for so many as imposed by a racist society. The effect is reminiscent of the soundtrack work Eurythmics did for the film 1984. It is imbued with the spirit of a future art project intended to convey the alien qualities of an old civilization informed by prejudices that will seem completely irrational decades and centuries hence. The footage of the American Civil Rights movement, scientific experiments, some on children, and now outdated technology enhance this unique critique of how society has rationalized its mistreatment of a minority group and, in the end, of the society entirely as that mistreatment has consequences for all. And yet, as the title of the work suggests, Ojala has no pretense of a full understanding or appreciation of the experiences presented, rather, she has created the audio and the video as a vehicle for understanding for herself and for anyone else willing to go along for its 22 minute, 2 second duration. But the journey is fascinating and worth taking and reminiscent of old industrial culture projects that created their art as a medium of comprehension as well. Fans of Chris & Cosey and Future Sound of London will appreciate not only Ojala’s aim for the song but also her cinematic production of the audio and the musical rhythm of the sampled video. Watch that video for “(I have no clue, so I will) Listen & Learn” on YouTube and connect with Ojala at the links below.
Hanna Ojala ses the lyrical poetry of “In this Dusk” to the sound of water lapping at the show, gentle wind chimes and birdsong. To call it a mere song would be improper as it doesn’t follow any conventional songwriting conventions, its poetic meter is as organic and free as the assembled field recordings, intuitive in its cadences. As usual, Ojala’s vocals invite you into a private world the likes of which perhaps you have experienced or need to experience wherein you allow your being to flow through experiences rather than try to control them. The Western mind is trained to try to control and to dominate rather than understand things on their own terms and to let go and gain comprehension of the world around us by taking things in unobtrusively so that we may learn and reflect without taking and without needing to outwardly transform until the time comes when action must be made. The lyrics with the sounds is like an audio meditation to put oneself in a frame of mind to be open to the hidden secrets of the world that are invisible to us when we impose meaning based purely on conditioned prior knowledge rather than observe things for what they are whether they are external quantities or aspects of ourselves. It’s a song that seems to aim at a kind of mystical experience through radical awareness of the world on its own terms, of other people and of our own subjective experience thereof and our lenses of interpretation. Watch the video for “In This Dusk” on YouTube and connect with Hanna Ojala at the links below.
Hanna Ojala takes a foray into the realm of earthy sensuality on her single “Spring in my Step.” The tropical flavor of the percussion via hand drum and the sounds of birds and insects from a warm climate serve as the backdrop of ritualistic poetry spoken in ode to the joys of being in one’s body and the pleasures one can indulge. And as usual, Ojala takes these words that could be, given a different musical context, a playfully hip-hop tribute to sublime hedonism, and infuses them with a spiritual dimension. But in the presentation she fuses the earthly with the transcendent through an unabashed and refreshing reconciliation of components of our psyche that much of our conventional cultural conditioning in the Western world suggests need to be separate and in the case of pleasure, that it is somehow embarrassing. Ojala shows with her dancing in the music video and her words and music that we can simply embrace and enjoy these aspects of the human experience without shame if we can manage to not take things overly seriously. After all, if you don’t have something that puts a spring in your step regularly, life is nothing but drudgery. Watch the video for “Spring in my Step” on YouTube and connect with Hanna Ojala at the links provided.
Every time Finnish sound artist Hanna Ojala’s releases a single you’re in for a unique experience and one that doesn’t often draw immediate comparisons with other songwriters. With “Call for My Soul” you can’t help but imagine sepia toned landscapes and a structuralist film aesthetic like Wim Wenders and Laurie Anderson collaborating on a film about a great journey to a place where you face your darkest fears and embrace your greatest dreams. Her vocals, like spoken word free verse poetry, uses repetition to emphasize the emotional experience of memory and a yearning to reconnect with one’s core and one’s sense of identity and self-value. The poem moves over a layered ambient drone and impressionistic piano as though the song was informed by a visual sense of storytelling and the vocals and music echo slightly like deeply subconscious connections lapping at the shores of your waking mind and nourishing an awareness of what might soothe a sometimes faint sometimes powerful sense of unease at being out of balance with who you are. Probably everyone has this sense of existing in a way and in a social context that does not nurture who we are but pushes us toward what seems most “useful” or efficient as if our existence is only justified by its utility to an economic system, an ideology or some other dominant belief system imposed on everyone. Ojala’s song suggests that you can harbor within you an independent sense of self-value from the cruelty and disconnectedness of the world and in doing so recognize and encourage the same in others. Listen to “Call for My Soul” on YouTube and connect with Hanna Ojala at the links below.
The sound of walking and a tinge of throat singing tones introduce Hanna Ojala’s single “Earthquake.” The footsteps create a unique beat, a textural percussion alongside the sound of ocean birds and Ojala’s almost meditative, plaintive vocals. The sound of water flowing in the background conveys the sense of Ojala performing and recording the track in a sacred, hidden, seaside cave to which she is whispering unconscious thoughts ritualistically. She repeats the words “You knocked me down and made me crawl, crawl crawl” three times with her voice on emotional edge. Then considers motivation with the second set of full lyrics with “Did I know you were keeping me unharmed in an earthquake?” Ojala’s voice quakes with emotion seeming to contemplate being brought what seemed low but which allowed her to weather an even worse circumstance. It suggests multiple interpretations of events in our lives and how we react to them and what we do with the energy that enters our orbit every day and to learn to be adaptable. As usual, it’s all but impossible to put a genre tag on Ojala’s works of sound art but yet another example of using one’s imagination to give a potential listener a different experience than is usually possible with more conventional music. Listen to “Earthquake” on YouTube and follow Ojala at the links provided.
The sound of water and a sound like a heartbeat, the kind you can hear while swimming, pulses through Hanna Ojala’s latest single “Mamba Experience.” The sound of a rattle sets an organic rhythm as Ojala speaks a dream poem about taking on the aspect of a mamba and its menace, its power, its primordial elegance. As the song ends the sounds of water give way to those of what sounds like an electronic emulation of a campfire by the shore, the life pulse still in your ears as though it’s the one aspect of your awareness of your body that persists in the dream state conjured with this arrangement of sounds. Listening, it’s reminiscent of some of the more out there parts of Laurie Anderson’s United States Live, in particular “Blue Lagoon,” wherein conventional song structures unravel in the wake of intuitive soundscapes that follow the mood and experience conveyed heading into one’s own dream of paradise to reach the center of consciousness. Ojala’s own journey to her mythic center is embodied in that pre-mammalian existence of the snake that symbolizes an awakening to consciousness and awareness and the unification of the dark and light, logical and emotional sides of the mind, that cosmic spiral of the labyrinth as a path toward illumination. “Mamba Experience” is technically a song but it is one that sheds being tied to conventions of melody, rhythm and meter. Listen to “Mamba Experience” on YouTube and follow Ojala at the links provided.
Hanna Ojala’s new single “Incantation” embodies the concept as she uses layers of vocals processed and bleeding around the edges as she implores an outside power or her inner self to transform her and illuminate her consciousness. “Carve out my demons, set them free / Burn my mind, and burn my past” she cries out calling down a purifying fire to purge her being of those elements that no longer serve her and a force to come in and forcefully remove her baser and self-destructive behaviors that seem so firmly anchored in her spirit like a possession, like a psychic cancer. It’s less a song, per se, and more like a ceremony of personal mythology designed to cast out the detritus of spirit in an effort to move into a new phase of evolution. But without the naivete that this fix is permanent but knowing that from time to time we need to cast off off the shackles of our outmoded habits and ways of being. Listen to “Incantation” on YouTube.
Hanna Ojala sounds like she’s singing to us from an alternate reality on “A Smoky Memory Of You.” The phasing synth drone is like the rippling of a field that allows communications between dimensions, a quantum transmitter of sound and ideas, the vocals dopplering through space and time. Perhaps Ojala in this song is like the first person to use a new form of transportation to visit remote spots in the multiverse and has had to jury rig a way to send messages back but because of the heretofore impossible gap between locations she’s been stranded and missing her beloved with a poignant ache and the transmission we’re getting is meant for that person and the desolated tones of her voice not intended for our ears as the message isn’t all love and yearning. The synth drones are reminiscent of late 70s Tangerine Dream circa the Sorcerer soundtrack when the band was at its enigmatic and melancholic peak. Watch the video for “A Smoky Memory Of You” below.