What is there not to love about Elmo Karjalainen’s album “Where We Belong”? A master musician pulls up a chair and starts playing his acoustic guitar for you. This is one for a rainy afternoon, the end of the day when you just need to repair, or late at night when everything is quiet and you finally have a chance to relax. Elmo Karjalainen doesn’t play guitar, he deconstructs guitar. I’ve been listening to Elmo and how he makes incredible sounds come out of that instrument. There is something almost supernatural about it, especially because the music doesn’t seem overly complex on the surface. If you try to mimic his guitar skills, you won’t come close to the same sound.
It’s well known that many guitarists can make the same riff sound different – and Elmo Karjalainen is obviously no exception – but when it’s nearly impossible to figure out what a guitarist’s fingers are actually doing, that’s special talent. Elmo is a guitar player from Finland, rated as one of the best rock guitar players in his home country, due to his work with the Finnish metal band Deathlike Silence, as well as the release of his solo album “Unintelligent Designs”. Elmo also plays in the bands Seagrave and Conquest, and he has toured with the nationally famous collective, Kilpi. If you’re into rock guitar music, check out his albums for an incredible sonic experience, but don’t try to play along with Elmo, or you’ll just befuddle yourself into madness.
This time around though, Elmo surprises us with an acoustic guitar album. Fifteen tracks stooped in melody, smooth textures and warm tones. This is light fingerpicking guitar music that is well-arranged, creative, and in modern styling for mellow but intense listening. “Where We Belong” is an album to be savored, like a glass of fine vintage wine, and, although you could listen to it at low levels and still find it quite appealing, I recommend a much higher volume, perhaps using headphones, to best capture the depth and beauty of Elmo’s playing and to not miss the intricacy and nuance of his virtuosity. His technique on the acoustic guitar is amazing, and he gets a full, beautiful sound that makes merely excellent guitarists drool with jealousy. He is an amazing composer, too. His melodies, chord progressions and key changes are lyrical and uplifting.
From track one, Elmo Karjalainen will serenade you with the beautiful tone of his unadorned guitar and you will be transported to an ambiance of serenity. This is the kind of music that simply relaxes and puts you in a very tranquil aura when nothing else does it. There are just too many standout songs to mention individually here, but tracks like “Black Jack Time”, “Lonely”, “Chasing Sound”, “The Princess and Her Tiger”, “A Minor Incident” and “The Smile in Her Eyes” have totally impacted my mind.
“Where We Belong” is a wonderful project, and one I consider being an absolute essential for any guitar-lover’s library. It’s a new acoustic guitar classic from someone whose name has been synonymous with electric rock guitar virtuosity until now!