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Uniko is a seven-part work composed by Pohjonen and Kosminen which had its World Premiere concert with Kronos Quartet at the prestigious Helsinki Festival in 2004. Subsequent Uniko performances took place in Moscow, Norway and eventually led to its North American Premiere with three sold-out concerts at the BAM NEXT WAVE Festival in New York in 2007.

Uniko was recorded at Avatar Studios in NYC immediately following the BAM concerts with production by Iceland’s Valgeir Sigurdsson, known for his work with Björk and others. Further recordings and mixing took place from 2008–2010 at Greenhouse Studios in Reykjavik, Seawolf and Ulappa studios, Helsinki.

Seeds for the project were planted in 2002 when Kronos’ artistic director David Harrington heard Pohjonen/Kosminen Kluster recordings and approached them with the idea of collaboration. Meetings in Latvia between the two parties were productive and led to first rehearsals at the Kronos Quartet space in San Francisco in spring 2003. The second set of rehearsals took place in Helsinki in February 2004 before the World Premiere in Helsinki in September that year.

Uniko is an adventure for unique and never-before-heard sounds from accordion and strings, accordion samples and string samples. The work features Pohjonen’s electrified accordion and Kronos Quartet’s strings together with Kosminen’s samples of accordion and strings reproduced via his electronic drum pads and devices. Various effects by Pohjonen and Kosminen provide additional elements in the composition and arrangement. On stage the music is performed with specially designed surround sound and lights.

The 2004 Helsinki concerts were filmed by Finnish YLE TV and BFMI of Austria for a one hour music and interview program that was broadcast on Finnish YLE Teema Digital TV, Czech TV, South Korean TV, British TV and Swedish TV.

Uniko will be released on CD, as well as for digital download and streaming, on Feb 9 (Finland), Feb 14 (Germany), Feb 22 (North America), Feb 28 (UK) and worldwide throughout February and March, 2011.

A Word From The Composers

The Uniko composition was commissioned from us by Kronos Quartet in 2002. It was composed over an eighteen month period before the Uniko World Premiere in Helsinki in September 2004. Uniko is comprised of eight sections, connected thematically to the Uniko concept, the title of which is loosely connected to the concept of dreams. There are several ideas behind the creation of Uniko.

First, we wanted to explore further the new and many possible sounds from the combination of accordion, accordion samples, strings, string samples and surround sound. This was virgin territory as far as we knew, and we were excited about what could be achieved with these combined elements. Second, we as a duo had many ideas for new pieces, melodies we wanted to develop in a new format such as this. The arrangements for these melodies were something we also very much wanted to do as an extension of our Kluster duo work, which involves accordion and accordion samples. Third, we wanted to "electrify" the sound of the string quartet and explore the possibilities of manipulating it electronically with live looping, etc, expanding the scope of the quartet sound. Fourth, we wanted to further explore the visual part of our performances with light and video director. The visual images are always a very important part of our concerts and we wanted to take them several steps further. Finally, we also wanted to try and reach a new level of emotional content with Uniko as a work of music. It was very important for us to create something stimulating and emotionally charged, to take the listener, as well as ourselves on an adventure. I hope we have succeeded in our goals. At least it has been great fun putting it together and performing it with Kronos Quartet.

Kimmo Pohjonen / Samuli Kosminen
“The music is sheer physicality”… “Uniko” is like an ocean tide coming in. Big waves of sound build in complexity, animation and sometimes sheer frenzy, then abruptly retreat into small lyrical moments, amplified pizzicatos or buzzings by some huge and imaginary insect. Mr. Pohjonen, a virtuoso on an accordion wired for sound, guided things along and became so excited at the end that one worried about his well-being.”

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