U.N.I. is the moniker under which the Finnish multi-instrumentalist Jouni Lehtonen has recorded his debut album Dreamland. On this CD Lehtonen plays on keyboards, synthesizers, acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, accordion, blow-organ, various percussion instruments, woodwind, tin whistle, kantele, drums and he does some of the background vocals as well! He's assisted amongst others by Petra Lehtonen (vocals, no relation), Jussi Ahonen (bass, fretless bass), Kari Riihimäki (electric guitars), Markku Tuomi (drums) and the classic Lumo Ensemble (violins and cello).
The up-tempo title track is a strange combination of the eighties sound from new wave bands like Siouxsie And The Banshees, Toyah and the music of Kate Bush. The lyrics are adaptations from the poem 'Dreamland' written by the American author Lewis Carroll (1832-1898). Next is Stars To Hold having a prominent electronic keyboard sound and the excellent voice of Petra Lehtonen, who elegantly sings in different musical styles. It's a melodic waltz again with lyrics from a poem by Lewis Carroll. Third song The Wind contains sad, but very well chosen lyrics: ' I have come to bury love; I shall not put flowers on his head, nor stones at his feet.' It's again a song with lots of interesting parts. The only instrumental track Tango Inferior is a four-minute happy song on which the violin and the electric guitar are fighting for priority. It's always good to change moods after listening to three dark and mysterious poems.
The classic piece Soft Rains has been beautifully arranged; a compliment to the musicians who play the violins here is in place! The lyrics and the music remain in harmony which also applies to The Meeting Eyes. This time the lyrics are an adaptation from the poem 'I Have Loved Hours At Sea' by the American lyric poet Sara Teasdale (1884-1933). The song has the atmosphere of the English countryside. William Shakespeare (1564-1616) is probably the most famous and well-known British playwright and poet. His poem 'The Witches' served as a model for the rather busy song The Charm. The mystical song A Ghost And A Dream contains a nice electric guitar solo. Phantomwise and Buried Love, the last two songs of the album are fascinating both musically and lyrically.
Provided that you're a fan of the music of Kate Bush and Michelle Young and also interested in old English poems, Dreamland is an excellent choice. It's typical music for a sunny day sitting on a bench and watching the hills of the English countryside after a long walk.
***+ Cor Smeets (edited by Peter Willemsen)
Where to buy?