I think it’s fair to say that I fell for the debut album, ‘In A Brown Study‘, by Helsinki’s Soft Power pretty hard. Not only did it make my album of the year list, but I also included it in one of my Essential Psych albums 2013-19, and is certainly one of my stand out new albums from that period.
It was a good transitional album for me, taking in German and Scandinavian sounds from the early 70s and mixing it in with some lovely jazz expressions which definitely helped me to open up my appreciation of the latter genre. It certainly helped me to appreciate some of the key artists in the recent jazz revival in the UK.
It seems that this might have been a similar journey for Soft Power since this second album, ‘Brink of Extinction’, is probably more of a jazz album with other influences at the edges; and is certainly no worse for that.
In fact this is a wonderfully played vivid, crisp and often funky album which often lightens the soul and brightens the day… the fact that it kicks of sounding like the start of Heatwave’s ‘Boogie Nights’ gives you an up from the beginning.
However this is not the whole story since this album has a serious message… a message that we are on the brink, the very edge of the abyss. That the ecological disaster that we as a species have caused is, in turn, leading to the disappearance of other species… a reduction in biodiversity which not only is to our shame, but also our ultimate detriment.
This album, however, chooses not to reflect this fact with gloom and doom… although there are moments, such as in the title track, where this is evident… the overall feeling for me is that this album wants to reflect what the world would be like if we could pull back from the brink. However as we move down the track list from ‘Window of Opportunity’ to ‘Final Blow’ we realise that this optimism may not be well founded.
The upbeat nature of this album, however, has certainly made me think. With so much of the UK quiet and still in the Spring of this year I had the real feeling of nature taking over… the blossoms bloomed particularly strongly, and the number and variety of birds in the lakes and wastelands around where I live seem particularly high this year. The fact that twenty years ago the whole area was an industrial then post-industrial mess gives me hope in the same way as this album gives me hope… but I wonder, ultimately, whether this will be bourn out as the wheels of ‘normality’ begin to roll again.
This, then, is another wonderful album from Soft Power which not only reflects my own musical journey but also helps me reflect on the philosophical and ecological issues that face us as a species… if the last few months have surely taught us anything it is that we are not indestructible. The ground that we have built our empires is fallible and insubstantial… whether that helps to brink us back from the brink seems doubtful… this album encourages us to try and, in a subtle and mellifluous manner, invites us to view the beauty that could be ours on the other side.
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