Kepa Lehtinen’s latest album release is a short-length offering of fine-tuned, romantic-era-inspired melancholy that’s saturated with a haunting, dark eeriness that will leave a lingering taste for hours after that captivating first listen.
Kepa Lehtinen is a Helsinki-based film and TV composer who has built a devoted fan base with his unusual sound design methods, and for his use of extraordinary instruments and tools in his compositions, (i.e. a saw). His quirkiness stops at his sound design and becomes much more composed and approachable in the actual music, which is, while still haunting and far from being run-of-the-mill classical compositions, sweet, rich, and full of detail and purpose. The eeriness persists in the composition, but it is sublimely utilized to serve a purpose, which is to be expected from Kepa, an academic of sound design, a pianist, thereminist, and generally talented oddball composer.
The “oddball” part is said admiringly… In The Heart of Winter is a 15-minute long classical offering with clear Scandinavian darkness. The sweet compositions have a running theme of horror-inspired motifs, musically via tools such as dissonance, or arrangement-wise, via his use of unusual instruments, including his beloved theremin, which is often used to create the sound of a humming choir behind Kepa’s feathery light, heavy-sounding piano, or of that of a wailing violin or cello. The titular piece starts the album and is divided into two distinctive parts, both sound gorgeous, with serene, stark compositions. The second part is more dire and urgent, grander with deep bass and sharper melancholy in the composition, as opposed to the first part’s curious, explorative atmospheres which lend that part a generally lighter feeling. The five remaining pieces are all just as short and as intricate. It Gets Dark has an unforgettable motif that’s at once horrifying and captivating, rife with dissonance. A running theme is how talented Lehtinen is at making those tiny pieces of music so rich and nuanced.
‘Waltz For The Sleeping Helsinki’ is a luxurious waltz that sounds as dark and as beautiful as the titular city, with Kepa’s brother Ari on the double bass. Another running theme is how much these pieces of music reminded me of how I stereotypically think Finland would sound and feel. Waltz for Prepared Piano has a decidedly sad descending theme that’s, again, ripe with horrific dissonance courtesy of Kepa’s piano, sustained to let the clashing frequencies rub uncomfortably against each other, while a large, clunking bass sets a pace of a funeral procession. The melancholy ensues with ‘Lake Theme For Saw, Theremin, And Piano’, which is an adaptation of a piece Kepa Lehtinen wrote for a film.
Kepa Lehtinen’s ‘In The Heart of Winter’ is a collection of beautiful, delicate, little monstrosities. Those pieces are extremely precious, with amazing attention to detail in composition, and arranging. Lovingly written and performed, those 7 short pieces will have something for every lover of piano-driven romantic and impressionist-era classical music, and also for aficionados of horror film scores. A beautiful album that has far more to offer than its short runtime suggests.