Home Music Tapani Rinne & Juha Mäki-Patola – “Decaying Light” – Everything Is Noise

Tapani Rinne & Juha Mäki-Patola – “Decaying Light” – Everything Is Noise

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When Finnish saxophonist/clarinetist Tapani Rinne and his compatriot, keyboardist/guitarist Juha Mäki-Patola, dropped their first collaborative project back in 2022, it was like a manifestation of all elements that made ECM-style jazz especially magical in the late ‘70s to mid-‘80s, brought together in a decidedly modern context. Boundless horizons of sound met delicate brushes of woodwinds, a painterly touch caressing the expansive canvas of our imagination. Open was one of my favorite records of that year, so getting to hear more from this ambient jazz dream team fills me with immeasurable glee.

A joy like that isn’t dampened by the fact that we’re ‘only’ talking about a four-track EP here. The brevity of the project isn’t to its detriment; if anything, it leaves me wanting even more. Decaying Light unfolds from behind a deliberately minimalist, somewhat bleak cover artwork, perhaps reflecting the severity of the EP’s title.

Frigid, soothing synths greet us as we cross the threshold of “Figures”. Notes waft in and out of the frame, Rinne laying down well-considered fragments of melody. Mäki-Patola creates the perfect backdrop for his companion to wander through, pondering its beauty and reacting through his instrument of choice. Expansive, deliberating.

“Branches” follows with carefully placed dollops of piano and the gentle ebb and flow of synths and woodwinds. Both musicians meditate upon the atmosphere they’re actively conjuring, only adding and subtracting what’s absolutely necessary for the composition to thrive. Restraint is often hard to find in musicians, but Rinne and Mäki-Patola evidently don’t feel the need to prove their technical skills; instead, they let the music do the heavy lifting. A slow dance of lilting notes ensues.

Title track “Decaying Light” hints at the cowering darkness behind the album’s messaging, and yet it too is not bereft of the elating warmth and radiance that has made the collaboration of these two musicians such a joy to witness thus far. One might call this a more optimistic take on Bohren & der Club of Gore – sans percussion, of course. Even that broadest of comparisons is doomed to fall flat on its face, however; Rinne and Mäki-Patola inhabit a space fully of their own at this point.

Ending on a track called “Beginning” bears a hint of playful irony. In any case, the opening saxophone melody instantly enraptures the attentive listener, while in the background, a contemplative mix of synths and piano is once again pieced together with utmost consideration. The atmosphere of Decaying Light is uniform but aurally pleasant; it trades the brilliant winter’s day of Open for a rainy Spring afternoon where life is thriving behind a temporary gloom of grey.

I am once again smitten with the work of Tapani Rinne and Juha Mäki-Patola. As someone who also enjoys their solo endeavors and, in the case of Rinne, previous group projects, I nonetheless positively have to arrive at the conclusion that this duo setting is where both shine brightest with their respective talents. Open was a fantastic first release, but perhaps more importantly, Decaying Light proves their shared creativity wasn’t a mere flash in the pan but a strong connection that can attain longevity and a bountiful harvest of inspiration should both artists agree to elaborate upon it further. This is what well-crafted ambient jazz can (and should) sound like.

Artist picture courtesy of Sami Mannerheimo

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