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The Helsinki Project
Artist: Jason Carter
Label: Naim
Length: 10 tracks / 56 mins

Although he has been around a while, Jason Carter’s profile has been raised by his Axis of Evil tour and what a good thing that is for lovers of world music.

The Helsinki Project is an assortment of exotic sounds and global timbres that blend into a richly textured whole, coated in images of sunshine and snow.

Englishman Carter has been living in Finland for several years and this is where the disc begins and ends. Opener From the North – the piece that Carter is most satisfied with – is about life in the snowbound nation. Featuring the only rap in English, Juki Välipakka sings of how the cold keeps them from too much violence “your face turns red and your lips turn blue”. Carter has mixed 70 tracks here, but left the listener with such a spacious, open feel that it is hard to know where he has put them all. 

The final track, Kaamos is even more uncluttered, rendering in sound the chilled and glowing feel of the Finnish midwinter evenings, when the sun lurks full time just below the horizon. 

In between, Carter gets a bit of sun, bringing us vocals from Senegal, the Middle East and even America, courtesy of manipulated samples from George W. Bush on Bach’s Prelude No.1. 

The mix on this album says a lot about the way that Carter involves people in what he does without having to be kingpin. Programming aside, his role is mainly as a classical guitarist, but the disc works as a whole, constantly turning the spotlight on his friends from around the world, who take vocal duties, play piano, soprano sax, oud, bass and tablas.

People are important to Carter. He travels the world to see it first hand and loves to meet ordinary citizens, wherever he goes. He has played to all sorts, from President Musharraf and Dustin Hoffman to head hunters in Borneo and border guards near Afghanistan.

It is hard to find a sound-alike to this disc, which scampers lightly over the fields of classical, world, jazz, electronica and hip-hop. But categories are not important. The bottom line is that this highly listenable collection is original, creative, distinctive, stands repeated playing – and, for a near instrumental disc, has a huge amount to say.

Derek Walker

Interview here



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