Getting my head around the ‘Colundi’ used by Aleksi Perälä as the basis for his recent productions has proved a little difficult. In strict music theory terms, it’s a sequence of 128 frequencies conceived by Rephlex co-founder Grant Wilson-Claridge as an alternative to the standardised 12-note tuning used in the vast majority of Western music. While frequencies are spaced at equal intervals in the classical tuning system, in the Colundi sequence these relationships are far more loosely defined (here’s where it gets a bit hazy). According to Wilson-Claridge, each note has been divined through a mystical process of “experimentation and philosophy…based on several specific biological/physical/chemical/mental/emotional resonances.” Don’t expect lucidity to come from Perälä either: in a 2015 Resident Advisor interview he described the concept in an even deeper metaphysical and religious context, even recounting an experience in which he was possessed by Colundi and scribbled down a message that turned out to be an indecipherable code.
Lost yet? Slightly spooked? I know I am. But philosophical nuances aside, something that stands in glistening clarity is the Finnish producer’s ability to successfully twist this musical framework to fit any number of styles. Since mid-2014 he has published a bewildering 16 Colundi Sequence albums (or ‘Levels’) on his Bandcamp page, with plans for a further five more. Though the music generally tends towards braindance-informed bleep techno, pluck a track from any of these projects and you’ll just as likely hear a heads-down 4/4 stomper as you are a rolling electro number or a skittish IDM effort. Clone have mined two expansive and brilliant compilations from this material, together showcasing the depth and quality of Perälä’s output. However, cutting high-quality productions from essentially the same cloth at such a blistering pace can surely only last so long - preternaturally-inspired or not. With the release of Paradox therefore, the overriding question is whether a new batch of Colundi manipulations can still sound fresh and exciting.
Things kick off in what is by now pretty standard fashion: infectious, shimmering arpeggios, crisp kicks, and a track title (GBLFT1740065) that will prevent you ever playing it at a mate’s house when confronted with a Youtube search bar. Several other tracks will sound familiar to anyone acquainted with the Finnish producer’s work, although the booming D1 is undoubtedly one of the finer examples of his style and a definite highlight. Elsewhere things do veer from the status quo though. This is Perälä’s first outing on Nina Kraviz’s TRIP label and it sounds as if the Russian’s soft spot for a catchy trance hook has rubbed off somewhat. The genre’s cascading melodies have always permeated Colundi tracks, but never more so than on Paradox. The excellent B2, for example, is a dizzying journey packed with the kind of glittering highs that would leave a day-glo raver in wide-eyed ecstasy, while the A2 recalls Lorenzo Senni’s twisted constructions.
Paradox is for the most part a good album, but for me too much of it feels like well-trodden ground. The signature twinkles and chimes just don’t enthral me like they did when first listening through those Clone releases, and the efforts to stray from the comfort zone often come off feeling a little flat. The C2 for instance sounds like a warped and slightly clumsy take on grime, complete with claps, snarling drum pattern and a Pulse X-indebted bassline. The body of work that Perälä has wrought from Colundi is a testament to both the producer and the musical structure he champions, but in light of this release I can’t help wondering if the project is starting to run out of steam.
Maybe a change of direction and/or tuning system would reinvigorate his work, though that seems unlikely given the Finn’s religiously committed approach: “I believe in Colundi. As simple as that. I’m enlightened, definitely.” When your working on a spiritual plane that high, I reckon its gonna take more than a bit of internet criticism to make you alter your course. Like it or loath it, Perälä’s unique sound is probably here to stay.
Words: Oscar Allan