Psychonaut Futurism On PH’s “Osiris Hayden”
Look to the starry chasm of the night sky and behold: descending quickly upon the earth, a lithe and dazzling craft piloted by four stoic cosmonauts arrives bearing artifacts from another world, presenting an exhibition of sonic forms and expressions not yet familiar to the human senses. These cosmonauts are known by the name PH, and their mission is to foster a growing musical connection between the earthly and the interstellar. A major contributor to the elusive and esoteric vibrations of Finland’s cutting-edge experimental heavy psych scene, PH was originally formed in 2000 under the moniker Mr. Peter Hayden, long before they and their aural compatriots gained international recognition, but have since their previous full-length record transitioned to the sole use of their monogram as the official title.
As pioneers of Finnish avant-garde psychedelia, PH became involved with the exclusive Wastement collective that also includes Oranssi Pazuzu and Dark Buddha Rising, and thus gained more widespread exposure in Europe with appearances at Roadburn, Roskilde, and Tuska, amongst others, carving out an impressive name for themselves as valiant defenders of Finnish experimental heaviness. Though many have attempted to assess the group stylistically with labels such as post-metal, psych-rock, and even space rock, their aesthetic foundation is rooted in a sound described by the group as Finno-Ugric krautrock; categorizing themselves under such a nebulous and experimental style, however, has allowed the group to sprawl across vast landscapes of sound and emotion; since the 2010 release of their debut album Faster Than Speed their idiosyncratic approach has grown into a formidably well-focused auditory spectacle. Incorporating countless styles and genres, PH borrows from the full spectrum of music but belongs to none. Enthusiasts of metal, post-rock, ambient, and dark electronic can all earnestly gather at PH’s enthrallingly psychedelic altar to witness their uncanny marriage of primeval savagery and digital futurism.
Though PH’s first three studio albums are structured around longform compositions intended for deep, meditative listening, their more recent partnership with Finnish label Svart Records has ushered in an era of increased accessibility in the presentation of their material. This is not to suggest that their bizarre blend of aesthetics has lost its creative, immersive edge, but with their newest material the group has broken their music down from a single monolithic track into smaller, more modest and digestible pieces, each clocking in under seven minutes. Coming full circle to arrive at a reimagined iteration of their foundational concept, it comes as no surprise that the band’s upcoming fifth record Osiris Hayden carries a deliberate intentionality marked not only by forward progression, but also a symbolic rebirth or regeneration of their core musical identity. Though it may explore the same immersive, hovering soundscapes as in past releases, its scope has been expanded immensely to evoke timeless, almost cinematic soundscapes of vibrant light and color. Bassist Lauri Kivelä explains the motivation behind the record by stating that “each album of ours has always been a step forward and that is the only way we can do this. We are keen on going forward, a bit further than anybody else and we do not need to stick to any genre on scene just to feel safe, quite the opposite. We are, and have always been, all about on moving on, forging our own paths.” Listen to an exclusive stream of Osiris Hayden below.
WIth its first track “Thr33 Of Wands,” Osiris Hayden opens into an ambient world of industrial yet lush synthesizers chirping and pulsating against waves of foreboding distortion that waver beneath barely tangible melodies. Coiling and uncoiling in gradual layers of meditative psychedelia, the track swells into something resembling valor and triumph, yet is underpinned with subtle tangents into a sinister murkiness that always lurking under the track’s sporadic harmonizations.
This introductory piece is one of the more contemplative tracks on the record, and works to bridge the doomy, meandering realms of the group’s first several records with the more intricately structured sound design that defines their newest material. Retaining the essential nuances of the band’s signature sound, this record immediately conveys PH’s musical sensibility through a much more grandiloquent vision endowed with an even greater eclecticism than in previous works. As the album transitions blithely into its second track “Emergence,” we slide into a primevally-intoned march of crooning electronics and tribal drone that sways to a trance-like beat (not simply trance-inducing, but in fact quite similar to the electronic genre of trance) as warped, effects-soaked vocal intonations begin to spill onto the busy aural canvas. As we continue to move through the record, we witness the unbroken progression of sound from track to track and begin to realize that the longform compositional approach established at the group’s inception is readily intact on Osiris Hayden, yet formatted quite differently. Like a single breathing organism, the record is built around a continuous pulse that never ceases, but rather shifts into distinct rhythmic patterns in order to reveal new timbres and sentiments. There is no moment on the record that is arrived at jarringly: its transitions are sleek and gradual, sneaking unexpectedly into radically diverse landscapes.
The coiling and uncoiling ambience that churns restlessly beneath each track on Osiris Hayden is PH’s bread and butter, and the element that has been most carefully refined over the course of their existence. While a more passive encounter with the record may evoke unyieldingly abstract and formless meanderings beneath aimless melodies and unintelligible vocals, closer attention to detail reveals a densely woven tapestry of complementary harmonies and otherworldly percussive patterns yielding immense depth and passion. Its fourth track "Uhrilahja" is constructed almost entirely of fluid ethereal ambience, marked by a meandering melody floating atop a tumultuous digital sky. The aforementioned filtered vocals are on display once again in this track; as murmuring voices crescendo through dense clouds of shimmering static, they peer through the veil of ambience but never truly pierce its impregnable . This intangible presentation of vocals as instrumental layering persists throughout the record. The following track “Sun Sets for One” strikes a heavier, more metallic tone as a muscular, anthemic post-metal riff is met by masked verbal incantations howling atop the track like sudden wintry blasts in a barren tundra.
PH succeed once again in defying categorization into any conventional genre. More than ever, their sound has expanded into an unbounded creative space that drifts capriciously between styles without ever committing itself to one school of artistic thought. The records transitions from ominous yet stoic industrial rhythms to a more straightforwardly heavy space, but truly reaches unimaginable heights during its final one-two punch of “M47eria Prima” and “Tachophonia,” which would not sound out of place in a live performance by a more psychedelic, experimental electronic artist.
Despite this diversity in texture, however, Osiris Hayden is remarkably cohesive across its length, unfolding as a completely unified, often recursive composition. Like PH’s first several records, the album can be taken in all at once as a single piece, with sprawling detours and sudden twists all packed into its overarching monolithic form. However, with the increased diversity of sound comes an increased willingness to morph as it unravels; although the record still revolves around a continuous transcendental drone, it makes wise use of its well-measured length. The rollercoaster of moods and soundscapes here is wound together more logically, and although their sound is still totally splayed it feels like they fill in the gaps much better on this one.
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