UTOPIANISTI
Jazz Related Rock • Finland

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Zappa-influenced jazz/rock/prog from Finland. Utopianisti is Finnish composer, multi-instrumentalist, producer Markus Pajakkala's brainchild, started in 2010. It's a studio project where the line-up changes for every song. Pajakkala plays the drums, woodwinds and some keyboards himself and composes and engineers all the material. Guest musicians are plenty, from different genres - classically trained, jazz, folk and rock musicians. The style is mostly instrumental, energetic jazz-rock, eclectic prog with occasional leaps towards Balkan gypsy music, tango, avant-garde, latin or even operatic metal. Pajakkala is also a key member in the band Poutatorvi.
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UTOPIANISTI Discography

UTOPIANISTI albums / top albums

.. Album Cover 3.09 | 2 ratings
Utopianisti
Jazz Related Rock 2011
.. Album Cover 4.05 | 2 ratings
Utopianisti II + Utopianisti meets Black Motor & Jon Ballantyne
Jazz Related Rock 2013
.. Album Cover 4.91 | 2 ratings
The Third Frontier
Jazz Related Rock 2016
.. Album Cover 3.91 | 2 ratings
Brutopianisti
Jazz Related Rock 2017

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UTOPIANISTI Reviews

UTOPIANISTI The Third Frontier

Album · 2016 · Jazz Related Rock
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Third time is a charm for UTOPIANISTI as they reach the pinnacle of their creative energies on THE THIRD FRONTIER. Once again band leader and head honcho Markus Pajakkala seeks out another cast of musical talent for a whole new jazz-rock fusion experience that reels the listener in with heavy horn-laden hooks and groovy driving percussive rhythms and delivers a sonic splendorous jazzy journey through the jungles of sound. While the previous album had a whopping 31 musicians and vocalists clogging up every possible nanosecond of the album, this one was trimmed down to a mere 7 instrumentalists and two additional vocalists. While the other albums were self released this one found a home on the Pohjola Records label, former label of none other than the legend Pekka Pohjola himself. THE THIRD FRONTIER refines all of the ideas, compositional styles and genre blending to perfection. One of the reasons this album works so well is that much of the material was played live previously allowing the band members to simmer the material down into a scrumptious consummation of content. Gone is the everything-including-the-kitchen-sink approach and instead we have a perfectly balanced jazz-rock fusion album that still channels the zeitgeist of classic 70s fusion while remaining steadfastly contemporary replete with outstanding musicianship crafted with crystal clear production and mixing. The musicians on THE THIRD FRONTIER basically recorded this album live in a cabin by a lake in the Finnish countryside where they were all entrenched in the charms of their own personal Rancho Relaxo where they ate good food and hit the sauna before bed time. It sounds like my kind of party actually :)

After a psychedelic sounding intro the feisty cover depicting title “Voodoo Mammoths From Neptune” showcases the first seductive swanky sax groove that gently beckons the guitars, keys and bass in a game of tug-of-war to see who can carry the melodic development in a pass the torch kinda way. This whimsical Canterbury styled jazz-rock scene is only one of many jazz styles on display at the Pajakkala sonic museum of jazz-rock. While swing is in no short supply on the album, its dance with psychedelic organ runs on “Dr. Gravity’s Evil Plan” is just divinely delicious as the saxes, flutes and clarinets slowly ratchet up the tension to a climax that once dropped brings a fuzz guitar and bass out of the murky din to expose a most satisfying heavy psychedelic rock underpinning. While Canterbury whimsical titles are the name of the game on THE THIRD FRONTIER, further references to the greats like Hatfield and the North come fully into play with the erratic tinkling keyboards on “Universe For Dummies” that also showcases the angelic diva Suvi Väyrynen doing her best Amanda Parsons and adding an extra dimension to the track that takes the wild and groovy bass and drums culminating with a tasty guitar solo in the clouds and above. The following short track follows the Hatfield and the North theme with Dave Stewart inspired keyboards on “White Dwarf” that basically serves as an intro for the next track.

“Life As We Thought We Knew It” gracefully ratchets up the Canterbury styled jazz-rock with psychedelic touches and remains reserved in the tempo as it simply creeps along with oddly shaped time signatures punctuating a rather sparse canvass as the dominate bass and drum groove allows the swing style horn section to blurt out the recurring melody. “A Hundred Rabbits” on the other hand heads into funk rock territory as the bass and guitar deliver the solid rhythmic background with Latin-jazz flavored percussion and a sultry sax sizzling around every musical curve with Suvi Väyrynen once again joining again with her over-the-top siren vocals sending the track into heavenly bliss territory. “Spanking Season” picks up the steam with an avant-jazz-blues groove with a great Captain Beefheart vocal impression by Pharaoh Pirttikangas and is a sequel to the track on Utopianisti II but has different vocals and different musical parts even though it has similar riffs.“13 Demons In The Disco Dimension” is my favorite track on the album with a groovin’ synth funk basis and hard driving rhythm and addictive melody including vibraphone and marimba that includes the most dazzling guitar solo i’ve heard on a jazz-fusion album since John McLaughlin dazzled the world in his Mahavishnu Orchestra as Antero Mentu delivers one of the most off-kilter stylistic guitar solos i’ve heard in a long time. The album closes with the more subdued closer “The Last Reflection” that ends the album with the listener gently coming down from the jazz-fusion heavens and delivered back to Earth in a mellow mint-under-your-sleepy-time-pillow sort of way.

I can understand why some jazz-fusionists may not find this appealing. UTOPIANISTI is all about groovy, catchy melodic rhythmic developments that swing and allow a whole series of instrumental interactions to reach their full potential and may even find it slightly over-calculated in how slick it’s all pulled off. I, on the other hand, LOOOOOVE this album and find it to be sheer perfection for what is intended. The grooves and hooks are instantly addictive. The complexities of instrument interplay add layers of sonic tension and there are just enough progressive twists and turns carefully laid out in the right places to make this one extremely satisfying experience. As with the previous two releases, if crazy psychedelic reality distorting jazz-fusion is what you’re craving then this won’t fill the bill. If you crave a warm and welcoming swinging sultry good time of seasoned musicians having the time of their lives making great music together at a cabin on a lake and creating a diverse palette of retro meets contemporary, then this will not disappoint. Every track on here is carefully crafted and polished to perfection. I can’t seem to get enough of this one lately.

UTOPIANISTI Utopianisti II + Utopianisti meets Black Motor & Jon Ballantyne

Album · 2013 · Jazz Related Rock
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UTOPIANISTI II picks up where the eponymous debut left off only this time main man / band leader Markus Pajakkala got even more ambitious with his number of guest musicians and there are no less than 31, yes! 31(!!!) different vocalists and instrumentalists including an entire big band section and opera singers. The album is completely a studio album and many of the musicians had never even met, so UTOPIANISTI II was truly the studio project of Pajakkala taking his project that he began as a student at Helskinki’s Sibelius Academy to the next level. And what a big fat sound this one has! Pajakkala himself plays drums, percussion, tenor and baritone saxophones, flute and alto flute, bass clarinet, mellotron, various ethnic instruments, keys and vibraphone. The rest of the band includes 2 bassists, 4 guitarists, an additional organist, tons of vocals and others who play sitar, marimba, vibraphone, congras, accordion, fiddle, trumpet, trombone and extra saxophones! Whew! No they don’t play everything at once! The music is designed for a rotating cast of musicians to play their parts at select times but this is indeed a big band style of jazz-rock fusion so it indeed has a big, fat, beefy sound. Once again the jazz-rock basis is mostly based in easily accessible swing style where groovy, funky rhythms are easily digestible and the avant-garde comes in with the other instruments interacting. Although strange time signatures and other-worldly segments aren’t totally eschewed, this type of sound rests squarely in hooking you and taking you for a ride.

Right from the beginning with “Mekonium Fist” it’s apparent that this album is a huge step up from the first with not only more palatable grooves and rhythms but by the sheer force of the musicians on board. The beat is strong and so is the brass. This first track comes off as some 90s swing revival on steroids only has a heavy rock guitar added to the mix with a sizzling guitar solo that could rightfully grace any particular heavy metal sound. The second track “The Vultures Were Hungry” plays a rather Diablo Swing Orchestra move and adds a group of opera singers to the big band swing section only they up DSO and have not only female divas but a male baritone as well! The tracks are quite varied and laid out quite well so the listener remains thoroughly entertained. Next up is the tender starting “Pohjola” which is obviously a tribute to the great Pekka Pohjola in not only the title but in jazz-fusionist compositional style taking the music back to the 70s complete with appropriate organ runs and the proper zeitgeist touches. The next track “Tango Succubus Pt 2” changes things up totally and as you can probably guess is a tango only with a male opera singer and vibraphones joined by the brass section. And such is the entire album, chock full of hitherto unthinkable possible fusion where the world is a grocery store and UTOPIANISTI II is the shopping cart where all of the genres and styles play together awaiting check out.

While UTOPIANISTI II is a major step up from the less ambitious debut, this one suffers from being bloated with way too much of a good thing with a whopping time length of near 79 minutes of jazz-fusion doing a dance with almost every type of musical genre imaginable. Inevitably unless done to perfection an album this long loses steam at times. For example, certain tracks like the traditional Finnish folk track “Kynttilöitäkin Vain Yksi” sound out of place and frankly unnecessary as do some of the lesser tracks that fail to have strong hooks. Not to mention that some of the tracks just don’t gel so well next to each other. Despite the album not being perfect however Pajakkala paints the picture of what jazz-fusion dreams are made of. Great care is paid to the details with a crystal clear production and so much creative prowess lurks around every corner that it becomes dizzifying. Not only are there references to the jazz-fusion and swing greats of the past but surprises such as the Captain Beefheart inspired segments on “Spanking Time.” There are plenty of tributes to jazz greats themselves with John Coltrane being heavily represented as well. Some tracks like “Mechanoid Makeout Music” show not only a Canterbury type of whimsy but the music itself is quite unorthodox with a jittery almost Latin-jazz rhythmic type of freneticism with an Ornette Coleman type of free-jazz sax attack. “U.L.J.C. (The Unnecesssary Leftover Jam Compilation)” that ends the album is quite fun as is this album for the most part. While UTOPIANISTI II isn’t perfect by any means but there is more than enough strong material on this one to entice any enthusiastic jazz-fusion freak out there and while not as well polished as the followup “The Third Frontier,” UTOPIANISTI II is an extremely strong set of eclectic numbers just waiting to blow your mind.

UTOPIANISTI Utopianisti

Album · 2011 · Jazz Related Rock
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UTOPIANISTI is the project of Markus Pajakkala emerging from Tampere, Finland where he hunts down the absolute most brilliant musicians from every nook and cranny of the musical world and gives a serious boost to the jazz-rock fusion scene with some of the most addictive creative compositions that i’ve experienced this decade. Every album is designed for a rotating cast of musicians on each album. While the project only began in 2010, fertile grounds were afoot and the project released it’s very first eponymous album the following year. While Pajakkala appears alone on the album cover, this is hardly a one man show but includes a huge cast of no less than 18 musicians covering bass, guitar, sitar, xylophone, marimba, vibraphone, clarinet, alto sax, trumpet, trombone, french horn, accordion, fiddle, violin, viola and cello. However when it comes to writing the music itself, this is Pajakkala’s baby and he plays band directer much like the role of Frank Zappa in the day. This album is his early work that emerged as a school project while he was studying music at the Sibelius Academy, a prestigious music school in Helsinki.

Despite being a mere debut, Pajakkala had a firm grip on his vision and worked it out meticulously. While his main instruments are the flute and saxes, on this one he also plays drums, keyboards and contributes vocals as well where they show up. The music is mostly based in jazz-rock fusion but this is really a smorgasbord of genres that incorporate everything from Balkan gypsy, klezmer and heavy rock to heavy doses of experimental touches. Tracks range from the heavy rock oriented “Plutonium First” that has a rather 50s rock ’n’ roll feel to it with a heavy brass and rock section making it feel more like a 70s TV adventure show theme to the funky bass chop led “Avaruuden Shammaanit” which sounds like a swing band got a sudden itch to incorporate 60s style funk into the mix although the jazzy time signatures keep it all in the grounds of challenging music despite the instantly addictive grooves. While most tracks are fairly upbeat with heavy percussive and bass driven rhythms accompanied by heavy brass section, a few tracks like “Waltz For FZ” are more laid back without feeling too slow or sappy.

I have to admit that i’m not as keen on this debut since my UTOPIANISTI journey began with perfection of “The Third Frontier.” While everything on this debut is extremely professional and well executed, the album as a whole doesn’t come off as outstanding as the following releases. While i’m totally impressed that this album was basically a school project brought to fruition via the passionate conduits of quite the number of musicians involved, i don’t think the compositions are as well developed and of the caliber that the next couple albums would include. This one has plenty of excellent fusion ideas stirring in the pot but no one has quite turned up the heat enough just yet to fully unify the possibilities that can be heard in the nascent processes. Still though, an impressive debut that paves the way for things to only get better. Personally i’d probably skip this and head straight to the second album modestly titled “UTOPIANISTI II” since most of the ideas presented here are present and perfected later. It should also be stated that this is melodic jazz with syncopation, dissonance and other jazzy characteristics but much more on the accessible side of the fence with groovy, funky rhythms that are designed to be addictive upon first listening. Those seeking a psychedelic detachment from reality should look elsewhere.

UTOPIANISTI Brutopianisti

Album · 2017 · Jazz Related Rock
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UTOPIANISTI is quite the unique act and one with which i have become quite the fan in relatively short time based solely on 2016’s stellar performances on “The Third Frontier” which found a new lease on the whole jazz-rock fusion meets brutal avant-prog thing. This project is led by the multi-instrumentalist Markus Pajakkala who specializes in saxophones, flutes, clarinets, keys and percussion. While on previous albums which consisted of whole ensembles of musicians churning out quirky rhythms and Rock In Opposition melodies, the newest release BRUTOPIANISTI seems to be more of a solo project by Pajakkala with only a handful of extras on board helping out in expanding the vocal range along with a few synth parts. Instrumentally speaking this is basically the Markus Pajakkla show as he plays drums, bass clarinet, soprano sax, xylophone and various flutes.

If you are expecting another slice of that ridiculously, superbly orchestrated avant-prog dancing in the jazz-fusion arenas of prog heaven then look elsewhere because this album goes in a completely different direction and displays a modern day trend of a quickening that is increasingly blurring the lines between metal, jazz, prog rock and ethnic world music. This music slaps you on the face from the very first frenetic drumbeats of “Gróyul Ghóul Ghò“ which combine a frenetic grindcore metal groove with Tuvan style throat singing as well as death metal growls! Despite the extreme metal feel to the whole thing, there are no signs of either guitar or bass guitar in the mix as the bass clarinet and other wind instruments pick up the rhythmic aspects of the music while screams, growls and other strange vocal utterings decorate the soundscape. This short little release barely clocks in over the half hour mark but packs a punch in its ruthless intensity and power punk attack.

While all this craziness unfolds, it sounds like the sax, flutes and bass clarinet borrow a lot from world influences ranging from Klezmer to traditional Chinese music as well as the aforementioned throat singing performed like a pro by Sampo Salonen. While the drums sound totally programed, it actually adds another layer of strangeness to the overall sound as it makes me think of such electronic wizards as Amon Tobin or other IDM (intelligent dance music) artists like Squarepusher (showing off his indietronica talents from his other project Poutatorvi). Between the metal intensity of the vocals, the electronic relentlessness along side with brutal avant-prog time signatures laced with swinging jazzy melodies and ethnic undertones with psychedelic twists and turns, we’re left with a very demanding listen indeed but not one that is too alienating even upon first listen. There is a firm sense of balance on BRUTOPIANISTI as not to overwhelm the listener with too much at any given moment.

BRUTOPIANISTI is certainly a curve ball thrown at us in the discography of UTOPIANISTI, not only in terms of how quickly it was released after the previous album as prog oriented artists of this magnitude often take many years to polish new albums into perfection, but also in how utterly different it is from their previous offerings. I would imagine that for those who don’t take a liking to this one because it strays too far too fast from the previous efforts will probably be assured that this will not likely be the style that Pajakkala intends to continue ad infinitum but rather a playful little side project that needed to be released. Be assured for as different as this album is, it is chock full of brilliant ideas mixing and melding their way into pure brilliance. Tracks such as “Hóllò” deliver a percussive beat that sounds like a warehouse of fireworks that caught on fire with lysergic ambience mellowing it out and “Zhími Bàgi Dá” with death metal growls and bass clarinet quickly morphing into an elves’ LSD party on Neptune sounds as otherworldly as the fictional language titles. This is truly bizarre stuff that will either reel you in instantly like an unfortunate bass on Lake Michigan or repel you like a mosquito from freshly deeted body in the malaria zone. Either way you won’t think that you’ve heard this before even from UTOPIANISTI itself but regardless it will leave some sort of impression. For me, i’m digging this one a lot!

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