[Click play above to stream Albinö Rhino’s Upholder in full. Album is out Dec. 9 with US vinyl availability to follow in Jan. 2017.]
To look at the span of dates involved, one can’t help but wonder just as to the particulars behind the making of Finnish trio Albinö Rhino‘s third album, Upholder. By the Helsinki heavy psych rockers’ own declaration, progress would seem to have started in Sept. 2014 with drums and basic tracks. That timing makes sense in light of the fact that the band would’ve released their self-titled sophomore outing earlier in the year (their debut having been 2013’s Return of the Goddess), and the two rumbling, spacious, extended cuts that comprise Upholder, “Uphold the Light Part 2” (20:47) (premiered here) and “Uphold the Light Part 3” (15:43), are direct sequels to the closer of that self-titled, which was called — wait for it — “Uphold the Light Part 1” and itself topped 14 minutes long.
How much in progress the full trilogy (so far) may or may not have been at the time, I don’t know, but it would seem that elements continued to build on top of that basic foundation over the course of the next year-plus by guitarist/vocalist Kimmo Tyni, bassist Ville Harju and drummer Viljami Väre, with Tyni handling the recording himself between 2015 and 2016 at Audiospot in Helsinki. The final piece, apart from a mastering job by Jaakko Viitalähde in Kuhmoinen, would seem to have been a guest appearance on modular synth by Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Øresund Space Collective — who seems to show up weekly around these parts — which was tracked in Feb. 2016, though it’s entirely possible that Albinö Rhino added more to the release afterwards. In any case, that they managed to come out of what seems to have been such a convoluted process with such a cohesive and flowing album is nothing short of miraculous.
Tonally gorgeous in a way that I’ve already likened to both earliest Natas and Sungrazer — neither is a comparison I’m willing to make lightly — and adventurous in a way one might not expect with how forcefully they underscore the repetitions of the line “Uphold the light” in “Uphold the Light Part 2,” Albinö Rhino‘s 36-minute two-tracker expands its immersion from its very beginning moments. Tyni, Harju and Väre set off with “Uphold the Light Part 2” — both opener and longest track (immediate points) — via a relatively straightforward roll compared to much of what follows. Dream-tone guitar is introduced as well as a fuzzier lead tone over a solid rhythmic foundation, and by three minutes, they’re beginning to dig into the central riff that will back the initial burst of lyrics. By the five-minute mark, Tyni takes another solo and follows it with a wash of feedback and noise to transition back into a heavier “verse” — one might just as easily call it a “chorus” — of the repeated lines, the thicker fuzz calling to mind the riffy triumphs of Toner Low.
The next time Albinö Rhino round out that movement, the jam begins, and once they open the gate on it, the immediate impression is that there’s no way they’re coming back. That same serenity of guitar tone that led off returns past 10 minutes in and is no less hypnotic the second time around. If anything, more so, since it gets fleshed out even further with the backing of Harju‘s warm-toned bass, the play between shimmer and rumble enough to earn the Sungrazer comparison above. A thunder strike circa the 12-minute mark brings the drums to a halt temporarily and sets up a kind of droning nod, from which the bass introduces a groovier progression that, as the rest of the track plays out, will rise to prominence — oh, the glorious noodling that happens on the way! — and much to the listener’s inevitable surprise, gets topped late with another section of lyrics, effectively tying “Uphold the Light Part 2” together as having had a master plan all along even as much as that master plan seemed to be singly geared toward expansion.
With that final shift, and with the fact that as it comes to a finish beyond the 20-minute mark, it actually ends, one doesn’t quite know what to expect going into “Uphold the Light Part 3,” and that’s probably the best way to approach it. The B-side of Upholder isn’t as long as its counterpart, but still has plenty of room to flesh out in its 15-minute sprawl. Its basic progression is arguably more straightforward — they’re essentially riding riffs, one after the other, that divide the total piece into different sections — but with the guest appearance from Heller on synth and some complementary leads from Tyni, there remains plenty of swirl to be had. Nonetheless, it’s a marked shift in vibe from “Uphold the Light Part 2,” which is something of a surprise considering the lineage between the two (or three) tracks, and even at its most laid back moment between about 10 and a half and 12 minutes in, “Uphold the Light Part 3” has a more active overall feel.
Another change from its predecessor is that it stays instrumental for the duration, giving Heller a proper showcase to act as a driving force alongside the trio, and he does not disappoint in that regard, hanging in even as the final minute finds the guitar taking over with a dominant wash that acts as the apex and the last rumble and ring-out features trails of resonant cosmic dust before its sudden cutoff. In addition to Upholder, Albinö Rhino have two other new releases from late in 2016 — the 14-minute digital single Riff Religion and a vinyl split with Morbid Evils boasting the 12-minute “Human Caravan” as their contribution — so it may well be that the band is entering a deeply prolific stage, or it may be happenstance that these recordings from the past several years are all coming to bear at the same time. Either way, the glut of material should offer followers plenty to dig into and listeners who haven’t yet been introduced no shortage of opportunity to become so, and particularly as regards Upholder and what it hopefully stands for in terms of the general progression of Albinö Rhino as a unit, that’s an introduction well worth undertaking.