"Part off-the-grid fantasy, part spiritual adventure" is how Finnish musician HK119 terms the exploratory electronic pop of her new album 'Imaginature'. It's Heidi Kilpeläinen's third full-length under the binaristic moniker, where her voice is pitched down, chants in incantatory tongues, and is occasionally reminiscent of Kate Bush's weirdest pop experiments with it's string-bolstered hooks. In her live performances too, the importance of play is foregrounded - at a recent show, she dressed up as an iceberg.
"Everyone's tired of the news, living satellite lives", she sings among the meteoric synths of album opener 'Wild Grass', happily proposing new orbital paths for us to tread. You can stream the wonderful 'Imaginature' exclusively on Dazed Digital today, and we caught up with Kilpeläinen to find out more about her creative and singular practice.
Dazed Digital: The album was produced by Christoffer Berg, who's worked with Fever Ray and Little Dragon. How did that collaboration come about?
Heidi Kilpeläinen: I loved the Fever Ray album and I instantly wanted to work with Christoffer, but I felt very insecure that time. Months later I had a dinner with Brett Anderson from Suede, and I sent him my demos. Brett came back saying "I'm sure Christoffer Berg would love your stuff!' It was a kick up my butt to find Chris, and when I found him, he was on board immediately with great passion and enthusiasm, it was a match made in heaven. Thanks Brett!
DD: Your new album's called "Imaginature". What does that mean?
Heidi Kilpeläinen: It is the moment when Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) flies off into the unknown, green landscape, with Rachael (Sean Young) at the end of the film 'Blade Runner'.
It is part 'off-the-grid fantasy', part 'spiritual adventure'.
It is 'a call to reconnect with nature', a personal awakening to 'all is one'.
It is a need to love and honour Earth to survive, and to have some quality of life.
It is a dystopian vision of bad-sighted people living satellite lives in front of their computers, watching images of nature on their screens and never experiencing the real thing..
It is an organic electronic musical adventure.
To quote (producer) Christoffer Berg, it is 'Plastic Nature Music'.
DD: You dressed up as an iceberg for a recent show. Is that because you see yourself as both beautiful and destructive?
Heidi Kilpeläinen: Not at all! Neither. I used to use plastic bin liners while on tour, and silver foil and cardboard. Iceberg is the next single from the album, and I always fantasised about dressing up in paper. I am in love with paper, it's such a great material for this purpose. Given a bigger space such as a gallery, I'd like to be a bigger iceberg.
DD: Your name's Heidi but you go by HK119 - how come? Do you mind that it sounds robotic?
Heidi Kilpeläinen: It is a sign of the times. I created HK119 after seeing THX 1138 by George Lucas. The HK119 name has metamorphosed along the way, with the 9/11 disaster in the USA - and now it contrasts nicely with the concept 'Imaginature'. I am an animalhuman sitting at my work station interweb dreaming , yearning, longing to be 'in nature', hiking on a mountain, lying on the beach, sailing the seas, like an Iceberg.
DD: In your new track 'Adailson' there's a male voice - what's he saying?
Heidi Kilpeläinen: Adailson is a shaman I 'accidentally' met while travelling in Brazil - not that I believe in such accidents - meeting him was one of my life's most meaningful moments. He writes beautiful poetry in Portuguese which I read with my knowledge of Spanish -.so there's that element of mystery for me to complete my own personal interpretation. Dialogue has been ther in all three albums. I guess I can't resist using spoken voice - a nod to ancient story tellings by the fire.
DD: Do you see HK119 as a music project, or more like performance art?
Heidi Kilpeläinen: There's a strong element of performance art, but the main set has a three-piece piece band and is a music gig. I always try to be playful with venues and costumes. It's natural for me to want to entertain myself, whether dressing as an iceberg or a tree. It's playful and silly, which is the fun of it.
DD: Nature imagery recurs throughout your songs. You're based in London - how often do you actually get to go out into a rural environment?
Heidi Kilpeläinen: Not enough! The slowly suffocates me. It cradles me telling me it loves me but as I relax into the grip of it, it sucks my life out of me. If I don't make it to the Heath for couple of weeks I start feeling sick, so I try to do my best here in London. If I'm passing some bushes and trees down the road I try to make sure I really look at them and think how beautiful they are. I can't wait for those new spring leaves to come out!
DD: You grew up in Finland. How did your surroundings affect your early consumption of art and music?
Heidi Kilpeläinen: I grew up in the suburbs, with concrete houses everywhere. I hated the concrete set up, 9-5 jobs and families, boring TV - it was a perfect background for total submission into music and art. My first Human League and Ultravox albums just confirmed I wasn't alone in this world. Iggy and Bowie were my boyfriends.
DD: If there's one thing that's lacking in music today - what would you say it was?
Heidi Kilpeläinen: Off the top of my head - originality. Having said that, there's a lot out there. But turn on radio 1 everything sounds pretty much the same. It would be so cool if mainstream loosened up a bit. Make it a mainriver instead of mainstream! Then it would be wider.