The Gentleman Losers is the experimental musical group of brothers Samu and Ville Kuukka, based in Helsinki, Finland. Since their formation in 2004, they have released three albums and one EP on labels such as Büro, City Centre Offices, Grainy Records and Standard Form. ‘Make We Here Our Camp Of Winter’ is The Gentleman Losers’ fourth full-length album, featuring eight new compositions, most of which were written during the summer of 2018 at a cabin by a lake in southern Finland. All in all, this is a much more spontaneous record than previous ones. That's what the label says anyway, and I have to take it on faith since this is my first experience with this project.
Taking in the first track, "Shelter From the Rain," I thought I wasn't going to like this album very much as it predominantly seemed to be spacey, slidey guitar noodling. Boy was I ever wrong! What follow is much more interesting but makes this an extremely difficult album to categorize. While some might pigeon-hole it as experimental (the patently catch-all category for music that's kind of out there and doesn't neatly fit into the prescribed genres), I think the stigma of that term tends to imply a lack of form, a tendency towards noise, and a free-form approach, none of which are germane to this work. Aside from the aforementioned opening track, there is an intense attention to detail, content and atmosphere throughout the next seven tracks. While an aura of ambient can be heard at times, this is by no means an ambient album. With some occasional similarity to Eno's 'Music For Films,' (along with some other projects he's collaborated on) little thematic ideas are expressed through various electro-acoustic environments that seem isolated from the rest of the world. Nowhere is this more apparent to me than on third track, “Book of Leaves.” At times on this album you’ll hear a sustained guitar with Frippish overtones, but no Frippertronics; piano chordal progressions that don’t quite resolve, and fragmented melodies that appear as under-developed musical fragments. The overall tone is gentle and genial, but haunted with a melancholy wistfulness. And yes, there is a wintery feel, readily identifiable to me because it happens now to be winter here, snowy paths, chill winds and all. Repetition plays no small part in some of these pieces, but it's not the kind of repetition that tends to bore you to tears, but rather the kind that draws you in to an inescapable whirlpool of swirling memories. It is soundtrack-like without being cinematic as it lacks the broadness and bombast so often attributed to that term.
The one thing I didn't particularly care for was the rather frigid recitation by Oliver Whitehead on "Fish Roam in Winter Water" although it was thematically consistent with the album in general, to me it just cracked the atmosphere. The album ends rather inconclusively on the track "Bend Low Sweet Branch, Bend Low," which is perhaps the only way it should have ended. Some tracks are more engaging than others, but as a whole 'Make We Here Our Camp Of Winter’ is still a worthy work. Limited to 500 CDr copies.