DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Uniko (2011)

A difficult-to-describe avant musical experience. Must be seen & heard to be believed.

Published on November 11, 2012

Uniko (2011) 

Performers: Kronos Quartet; Kimmo Pohonen, accordion & voice; Samuli Hosminen, elec. drum machine, loops, acc. & voice samples (2011)
Studio: YLE/C Major 707108 [Distr. by Naxos]
Video: 16:9 color
Audio: DTS 5.1, PCM Stereo
Extra: “The Making of Uniko” (4:3)
Length: Concert: 66 min.; Bonus: 16 min.
Rating: ****½

This is a most difficult musical/visual experience to report on. It captures a live performance in a big tent in 2004 at the Helsinki Festival, in which the six musicians performed the work commissioned by the Kronos Quartet for themselves and a very odd Finnish virtuoso of the amplified button accordion who as been described as a mix of Jimi Hendrix and Laurie Anderson, plus his sidekick on a tiny electronic gadget of some sort, who comes up with a variety of strange rhythmic sounds.

The work is in eight sections; giving the titles would be meaningless. The soundscapes build up from silence to huge avalanches of sound mixing strings and electronics, cued to sort be in sync with special video projections all around and unusual lighting effects. The general idea is to give a feeling of alienation, and this may turn off some viewers/listeners. Leave it to the cutting-edge Kronos Quartet to get involved in something like this, and the Mohawk-haired Finnish accordionist certainly is a singular performer. It goes on a bit too long for me, frankly. Proponents would say they have created a whole new multi-dimensional sound world. Give it a try—you certainly won’t forget it.

—John Sunier

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