Review: Tenhi – Saivo (2011) 1


artist: Tenhi
release: Saivo
format: CD
year of release: 2011
label: Prophecy
duration: 70:00

detailed info: discogs.com

I’m always filled with a slight trepidation when one of my favourite bands is releasing a new album after several years. Tenhi is a case in point, as I consider them to be one of the most original and consistently excellent exponents of the past decade’s neofolk movement. The beautiful Maaäet (2006) was certainly a marvellous album, along with its predecessor Väre (2002), where we found a perfectly original style and combination of guitar, drums, flute, piano, violin, and Finnish voices. Since then, the band has shrunk to a core duo, so it was a bit of a riddle what to expect of Saivo.

With some delays, the album is finally here, and frankly, it is not as surprising as it could perhaps have been. Despite a five year conception and a line-up change, Saivo is remarkably faithful to the style staked out on Maaäet, with practically the same instrumentation, style, and musical aesthetic. Nothing revolutionary in that sense, which might disappoint some people who weren’t that into the band to begin with.

Looking past that, though, Saivo is mainly a well-filled album with a plethora of compositional gems that will delight those who loved what came before. The misty piano ambient of the opener leads the way to “Pojan Kiiski”, which showcases the excellent song structure and rhythmic twists of Tenhi’s music. While the following tracks seem a bit less earcatching (growers perhaps?), “Haaksi” is a marvellously energetic piece of neofolk-rock that certainly ranks among the band’s finest songs. A flawless interplay of drums, string bedding, voice, and piano.

It’s all gold from hereon, too. “Surunuotta” brings some calm guitar and vocal respite before the emotionally intense title track “Savoie”, with its strong chord strumming and choir vocals. The mournful “Paluu Joelle” and swinging “Vuoksi” are further highlights. “Sees” starts with gentle piano and violin layers and more strong vocals, before settling into a calm acoustic fingerpicked melody that harks back to the earlier days when this dark acoustic style was just being developed. The final track is long and intense, with a strong contrast between the song itself and full ambient parts. Though less rhythmically challenging, “Siniset Runot” reminds me positively of “Rannalta Haettu”, that phenomenal closing track on the previous album.

Through focusing on refinement and subtle changes rather than stylistic revolution, Tenhi walks a safe path with this new album, but it is a very fine album nevertheless, and I haven’t even mentioned the stunning art direction and the special editions of this album, nor yet the 9 LP collect works box set that was released at the same time by Prophecy. On musical merit alone, Saivo definitely stands among this year’s favourite releases for me.

Reviewed by O.S.

Tracklist:

1. Saivon Kimallus (3:40)
2. Pojan Kiiski (6:46)
3. Uloin (8:08)
4. Pienet Purot (4:18)
5. Sateen Soutu (3:05)
6. Haaksi (9:14)
7. Surunuotta (5:43)
8. Savoie (3:02)
9. Vuoksi (6:08)
10. Paluu Joelle (5:01)
11. Sees (4:25)
12. Siniset Runot (10:30)