Mikko Joensuu | Amen 2 | 7/10
If ‘Amen 1’ was the anguished cry of a hopeless man facing up to his loss of faith, its expansive follow-up soundtracks his journey towards acceptance. Replacing singer-songwriter traditions – sparse arrangements, acoustic instrumentation, direct lyrics – with lush, expansive, keyboard-based soundscapes, the second part of the ‘Amen’ trilogy finds Mikko Joensuu stepping into the light after almost a decade in the wilderness of loneliness and depression.
“There’s a certain balance to be found between an overwhelming joy towards the beauty of life and living, and not really knowing if the mind will collapse into the abyss again,” explains the once-devout Finnish musician. “On ‘Amen 2’ the light is definitely present, although it is more interested in observing emotions and thoughts than setting them in stone.”
So the angelic ‘Drop Me Down’, which springs to life from a sustained organ note, opens the album with the lyric “Starts out with a silent word/ With a voice that can now be heard”, the sense of relief almost tangible in Joensuu’s voice. Climaxing in a Sigur Ros sea of distorted guitars and marching drums, it makes way for the sparkling synths and choral vocals of the dreamscape ‘Dying Rain’ before ‘No One Knows’ channels the woozy haze-rock of War On Drugs, suddenly revealing a confidence and, almost, happiness.
Self-doubt creeps into the lyrics of ‘What Have I Done’, although the accompanying music overflows with optimism and beauty – as does ‘Sunshine’, which channels the space gospel of Spiritualized to create a mood that truly encapsulates the title. Despite its scuzzy My Bloody Valentine vibe, ‘There Used To Be A Darkness’ also approaches exuberance, especially when, halfway through the 11-minute running time, the grimy guitars make way for that throbbing groove originally perfected on ‘Screamadelica’.
The waltz of ‘Golden Age Of The Lowland’ comes closest to the minimalism of ‘Amen 1’, but this time there’s an unmistakable warmth to the strings and Joensuu’s voice, before epic 20-minute closer ‘I Gave You All’ runs the gamut from stark piano ballad (“What used to bring me comfort has now robbed me blind”) to full-blown hymn to a tranquil electronic dreamscape that can only represent acceptance.