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Hidria Spacefolk, Finland






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Hidria Spacefolk - HDRSF - 1. 2001 private.
Hidria Spacefolk - Symbiosis. 2002 Silence/Silenze.
Hidria Spacefolk - Balansia. 2004 Silence/Silenze.
Hidria Spacefolk - Live Eleven AM. 2005 NEARfest Records (USA).
Hidria Spacefolk - Symetria. 2007 Next Big Thing.
Hidria Spacefolk - Astronautica. 2012 private. also released on LP.

Finland’s Hidria Spacefolk broke onto the scene in 2001 with “HDRSF-1”, which featured recordings from as early as 1999. And what a debut it is! Hidria Spacefolk are one of the very few bands to take the Ozric Tentacles space rock via Hillage formula, and actually take it further by adding more instrumentation, putting together more complex compositions and rocking harder than Ed Wynne and crew (that’s no small feat right there). While Hidria wasn’t even close to reaching their peak at this stage, there were plenty of signs they could put together a masterpiece (and their subsequent two albums did just that). Most notably ‘Sindran Rastafan’ is the type of space rock rave-up that leaves one amazed, exhausted and overwhelmed. Hidria mixes wah wah style funk, hard rock guitar, cosmic and very fuzzy synthesizers, Middle Eastern melodies, Indian flute and didgeridoo, sometimes all in the same song! Variety is their strong suit, and they mix high energy jams with meditative quiet sections with ease. The band likes to change things around in a rapid manner, so the music never gets stale and always remains exciting. This debut demonstrated to the world that Hidria Spacefolk were to be one of the best space rock bands of the modern era.

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"Symbiosis": The obvious comparison to Hidria Spacefolk is of course Ozric Tentacles, but that's only part (albeit a large one) to the entire equation. What's left out of most reviews is what comes after the plus sign - the early 1970's Scandinavia song craft - a certainly melodic sense that adds the key ingredient which makes Hidria Spacefolk so special. As someone who has listened to countless hours of the early 70s Scandinavian progressive scene, it's apparent immediately. From Sweden, you hear snippets here and there of Algarnas Tradgard, International Harvester, Lotus, Kvartetten Som Sprangde and Saga. From Finland, there's Kalevala, Nimbus and Haikara. The driving rhythms, electronica bits, synthesizer sequencers and riffing guitar point to a modern era. The bluesy guitar solos, sometimes with a Latin Santana influence, the Indian Eastern mysticism, the lead melodies, and the Hammond organ samples all point to a different era - one these lads most certainly absorbed growing up, even if unwittingly (though I suspect they are quite aware of their origins). If Ozric Tentacles is the post graduate course, then "Symbiosis" is the perfect score - 100%. "Nasha Universo" is my favorite short-form progressive song for the entire 2000 decade.

My CD says it's on Silence. My guess is the label changed their name to Silenze later to avoid confusion with the legendary 1970s Swedish label of the same name. A label that is still active I might add.

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Picking right up from "Symbiosis", Hidria Spacefolk deliver another set of smoking space rock tunes on "Balansia". All of the first 5 tracks are near or above the 7 minute mark, and each add a unique twist to their classic Ozric/Hillage/Gong inspired sound: 'Kokkola' features heavy percussion; 'Modus Operand Hermetik' goes east to India (at the break) for inspiration; 'Astroban' loads up on the wah-wah funky guitar and features some wild extended jamming; 'Pajas' adds bluesy Krautrock styled guitar and sampled organ; 'Pako Originaux' shows a remarkably researched track, full of classic 1970s French references (Clearlight, Heldon, and a host of obscurities). And then there's 'Tarapita', Hidria Spacefolk's one attempt to date at the extended atmospheric and exotic early 70's Kosmiche Kourier styled composition, with plenty of high energy jamming at the finish to polish it all off. Agitation Free meets Ozric Tentacles. An amazing album by an amazing band.

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"Live Eleven AM" is a literal title for the band's 2004 NEARfest performance. Like many modern live concerts, Hidria Spacefolk stays true to the original material, with little improvisation or significantly different arrangements. Seeing it live, no doubt, was exhilarating. As an album, though, it serves primarily as a nice compilation of their pre-"Symetria" era. This is the reason I rarely collect live albums. Hidria also released a  live album in 2007 featuring material from 'Symetria', but it appears to be once again a rather straight run through, that I'm sure was best witnessed live.

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"Symetria" shows Hidria Spacefolk cutting back on the edgy complexity of their first two albums, while adding more of a steady post-rock sensibility. These changes are somewhat understated, so it's more like a trimming of the hedges, rather than a replanting of another bush. The title track and 'Futrur Ixiom' demonstrate quite well this movement to the center. Gone are the high powered psychedelic sequences and ripping guitar solos, and its place is a more staid melodic and atmospheric approach. That's not to say the band has moved away from mid-tune meter shifts, it's just a bit more toned down. '322' seems inspired by the stoner metal movement, as no doubt the band performs live with many acts that represent that genre. However they do manage to avoid the standard trappings of stoner rock (slabs of metal guitar distortion, raw drunken vocals, etc...), and instead inflect the typical Hidria Spacefolk treatment, that as a bonus inserts midstream a cool funky rock sequence complete with horns. 'Flora/Fauna' is a new twist for the band, calling out their Scandinavian heritage - in this case the region's penchant to produce a type of rural rock, a favorite style of nearby Denmark, especially in the early 1970s. To be honest, at this point of the album, "Symetria" is a bit of a disappointment. However, Hidria Spacefolk saves the best for last, and the last two tracks, totaling close to 20 minutes recall the superiority of "Symbosis" and "Balansia". All the same, I hear this album a full star less (2 Gnosis points) than its predecessors, though still quite excellent obviously. It's probably no surprise that Hidria Spacefolk decided to break at this point, probably realizing they were beginning to hit a rut. Fortunately they reconvened in 2012 for a new album.

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Space rockers Hidria Spacefolk return 5 years after "Symetria" with "Astronautica", an album that has been highly anticipated by many, including myself. A couple of changes have occurred in the interim. The original keyboardist moved to Germany and has been replaced by Veikko Sutinen, who seems to favor the Fender Rhodes a bit more than his predecessor (that's a good thing). Hidria Spacefolk have also expanded to a sextet (yet another good thing) with the addition of percussionist Olli Kari, formerly of the much respected Uzva. Olli plays marimba, vibrafone, xylosynth, and sundry percussion. Despite these changes, "Astronautica" is largely a continuation of the style found on "Symetria". Broader strokes, larger sound, simpler compositions, with more emphasis on atmosphere rather than tricky intricacies. However, there's no mistaking that this is a Hidria Spacefolk album, and they continue with their lively instrumental melodic psychedelic music, with plenty of tempo changes and electric guitar solos. Great driving the highway music! Overall an excellent album, though still not up to the high standard (IMO) of "Symbiosis" and "Balansia".

I'm already waiting anxiously for the next album!

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