Bjork’s favourite rock chanteuse makes good with promise for rousing conceptual sophomore album.
HK119 crawls through the DJ booth of Buffalo Bar brandishing the type of dumbbell made famous by 20s strongmen. One weight is replaced with the letter H in elaborate caps the size of a small child, the other weight K (geddit?). A conical hat momentarily thwarts her demonic attempt to rip through the wires and trample - in Fergie-sized gladiators - across the resident decks to the heavy duct-taped floors of the centre stage. She arcs and shapes her body as though it is made of jagged floorboards - a bag of broken glass. Taking with her a souvenir or two - her left hand hooked like a talon snatches a desk lamp and holds it up to her face so her features become black-and-white silhouetted Escher outlines - HK finally reaches her target: front of house. Walking like a robot with stylised movements in spandex everything - disjointed limbs finding their joints - she screams down the microphone, kisses a boy at the front, and warns, when the projector fails, “We’ve got technical problems, but I’m not going to talk to the audience. You know I don’t do this shit.”
HK119 singer Heidi Kilpeläinen will earnestly say “The debut was a little more like this bitch from hell. Whereas on this second album [Fast, Cheap & Out Of Control], HK119 is still a character but she’s softened up and coming from a different angle. I’m writing from a more personal place,” when she’s sat in borrowed knitwear crocheting scarves (her favourite pastime, go figure). “Of course there’s lots of humour thrown in,” Kilpeläinen will say. But it is not Kilpeläinen that takes to the stage tonight. Projections of eerie 80s psychedelia egg her on, this other creature that resides within Kilpeläinen - she snarls, she roars like a bison at large, and she forewarns “YOU‘VE GOT TO BE HUMAN!” No, it is not Kilpeläinen that takes to the Buffalo Bar stage at all, but alter ego futurist super bitch HK119 (platinum-haired cyber punk from outerspace sent earthward-bound to forewarn of the faults of modern society: love, mobile phones, pollution - it all gets a mention). Tonight, as with every performance night, HK has enveloped Kilpeläinen. Kilpeläinen is nothing more than a vessel, a collection of skin and bones. HK119 is in her soul. And the crowd fucking loves it. During C'est La Vie, her new single, “From the start it was mission impossible to find out what it means to be human,” sets off a chorus of American Apparelled art students. “I have to report this case by tonight,” she booms, curled fists of fingers marrying the mic to her voluptuous lips. “I will take you by the hand and take you home,” her cacophonous Planningtorock-esque wails, well, wail in our ears, signalling the start of yet more theatrics - timed lunges, Velcroed all-in-ones ripped off and thrown to the crowd, feet, legs, limbs climbing across stage furniture.
You Can’t help but love her whole: she is the velvet tones of early-Moloko Roisin, the Roisin that bedfellowed Handsome Boy Modelling School. She is the fag-in-hand flippant disregard for love, life and the universe of Marianne faithful (she‘s the whisky, guttural moan of her too). She is the raucous “Fuck off” and unpolished basement rock of Chicks on Speed. She’s what princess Superstar used to think she was when she toured with cabaret trannies in downtown New York. She’s the best bits and only the best bits of all the art-rockers we’ve ever come to dote on: Nico, Grace Jones, Velvet Underground’s John Cale. Damn, she’s even the best bits of debut HK119 - an art student project that saw original slides, projections and demo disk-sets selling for a grand apiece until Bjork stumbled upon her and let slip the sweet secret of HK119 to her manager. Gone are the hand-cut montages of tinfoil-wrapped Kilpeläinen, gone are the electro-house ditties and nonsensical lyrics. Here to stay is HK119 - art/music and music/arts most unpredictable possession.
HK119’s album, Fast, Cheap & Out Of Control and single, C'est La Vie are both out now through One Little Indian Records.