With a voice which wobbles unsteadily, recalling Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, Joensuu immediately exposes a vulnerability in his music, a crack into which seeps doubt, loneliness and a questioning of higher powers. – The Line of Best Fit
Mikko Joensuu’s soul-searching Amen trilogy continues with Amen 2. Last spring’s Amen 1 album saw the singer-songwriter laying low, sitting alone on the porch of his small cabin by the lake, staring into the water and strumming his acoustic guitar. On Amen 2 he gets up and walks into the forest to meet the rays of the rising sun. But the story behind Amen 2, and indeed the trilogy as a full works, is not quite as romantic as the idea of recording in a studio overlooking a lake in northern Finland makes it sound.
Raised in religious surroundings, the seven years leading up to the release of this series were fraught with depression and loneliness, as Joensuu slowly came to terms with the idea that God did not exist in his mind anymore. Amen 2 looks into the strange thoughts that run through a person’s head while they losing their religion, and the fragile feeling of trust in one’s mind that has been close to a collapse for years.
As Joensuu explains; “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. On Amen 2 the light is definitely present, although it is more interested in observing emotions and thoughts than setting them in stone.”
Many characteristics from the album’s predecessor are carried over here, but where Amen 1 channelled its hopelessness into vulnerable folk songs in the spirit of Josh T Pearson and Leonard Cohen, on Amen 2¸Joensuu now begins to paint with a bigger brush, and with more colours. Its long, euphoric tracks inhabit a similar musical territory as My Bloody Valentine’s shoegazer melodies or Spiritualized’s space gospel, infused in a certain joie-de-vivre. It is a step into the light, in every respect, and a record that is built on the feeling of relief and acceptance. It careers through the restrictive boundaries of its predecessor.
“In Amen 1 I had rules of only using acoustic instruments and to keep everything restrained up to a point. Amen 2 doesn’t have this type of boundaries. The music is as big or noisy as it needs to be in order for it to be in a conversation with the emotions or thoughts that I’m trying to put in a certain form.”
With the concept of a trilogy there are always going to be big ideas; Mikko Joensuu proves himself a master in delivering these in a consistently poignant, emotionally intelligent way that can’t fail to resonate. Whatever his own misgivings about faith, Joensuu is forging something for us all to believe in.