Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Since Islaja are playing The Cube, Bristol on sunday week, it seems only right to mention this:

It’s an elegantly simple concept 7” (on a slab of vinyl that weighs as much as some band's albums): Islaja covers 'Melodi Melodika' by TV-Resistori and TV-Resistori covers 'Kämmen, Kynsi, Kieli' by Islaja.

(Oh, noooo….Kek’s reviewing another bloody Finnish ‘Free-Folk’ 7”: yawwwwwn….)

Except that: TV-Resistori’s toon is a ‘triffic slice of Synth-Pop in the vein of, oh I dunno, Andreas Dorau & Die Marinas, but w/ the Pop turned down to gas-mark 8. Lay down in the bath, shut yr eyes and switch the light off, and you’ll swear blind that this shoulda been released on Rough Trade or Mute circa 1981. Drum-kit, fa-a-a-at, fat synth-sounds and vocals in (I guess) Finno-Ugric: darn it, even Gutterbreakz would like this, I reckon. Forget genres, forget the retro-ironic faux-80s schtick... this is how people used to make ‘indie’ records: with love, enthusiasm and energy…this is unselfconscious and lacking the careerist tendencies that've infected a vast raft of contemporary UK indie-pop-‘punk’ records. Sure, it’s synthy and it's poppy, but there’s an odd, slightly awkward edge to the vocals and arrangements: it’s a bit off-balance and all the better for it. File under Groovy.

Meanwhile, (even though it’s a cover-version) Islaja have come up with the sort of thing that I haven’t heard in a while, because it’s so un-bloody-fashionable…'Melodi Melodika' has got an early eighties vibe to it, sounding vaguely like something that might’ve fallen out the back of Simon Reynold’s Post-Punk book if you shook it too hard. It lacks the brittle angularity that you’d (unconsciously) associate w/ acts from that era, possessing a sort of Euro-Art-Pop sensibility that puts it more in line w/ Les Discs Du Crepuscule’s latin artschool funk and electro-cabaret-flavoured roster (but minus Antenna’s borrowed drum-machine & their Post-Tropicalismo leanings). The drummerless, bass-and-keyboard-led line-up also reminds me of some of the def. un-Rock ‘n’ Rock instrument combinations favored by bands back then: saxes and violins and woodwinds…think of the 3/4-piece Tuxedomoon or the expanded incarnation of The Durutti Column…music for mutant tea-dances; glacial, sour-sounding chamber-pop...even The The’s choice of keyboard preset-sounds nodded towards this…this whatever it is, before Matt Johnson first went (1) completely Big Pop, then (2) totally flippin' guitar’d-out

Where was I? Oh yeah, the Islaja side: features flanged vocals that are barely held in check by medication, some clattering, clinky kiddy keyboards and an ominous Bontempi & bass gtr. backdrop that hints that something is coming this way that you really don't wanna have to deal with, physically or emotionally, it's hard to say's a psychedelic cream-bun that's gone a bit early-ish Teardrop Explodes b-side that's been possessed by the Norn Haags...


At 11:02 am, Blogger the X said...

Islaja is indeed a beautiful woman, and i admire her intentions and what she does, however i've never really warmed to her fact i don't think i like it very much...

with all my respect to her...sorry, i just think it sounds...a bit contrived in a way?
perhaps she'll release something else later on that'll make me change my mind-
anyway...ignore me, i'm a curmudgeon

BTW kek, noone minds your reviews at all- they're great

At 8:57 pm, Blogger kek-w said...

Yeah, I understand what you mean by contrivance: her stuff sounds more 'composed', more 'worked'/less 'free' than Jonna Karanka or Lau strives for a certain effect in places (Satie/Eno-ish lonely 'piano' interventions; reverbed vocals, 'folksy' charm, etc)'s strange, but 'nice': given the right producer/distro deal she could possibly 'cross over' and do a Bjork/Mum/etc...I like her stuff but it lacks the fucked-up alien-ness of the best of the Finnish Underground. Her stuff w/ HLA is great tho.

This track was a pleasant, unexpected surprise tho'...I really didn't expect the Early-80's Euro-art-pop psych-lite references, but if you're covering something by TV-Resistori, then, bloody hell, why not?


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