Finland vs. USA with Islaja, Kemiallisetystavat, and Sumara Lubeski.
Right now and for the rest of the month, some of the finest flipped-out experimental electronic noiseniks from the Finnish and US underground are travelling the country as part of Approximately Infinite Universe: A Caravan of Raw Sound Magic from Finland and the US. I spoke to three of my favourite artists from the tour, which is organised by UK promoters No Signal and No-Fi together with Finnish record label Fonal.
Islaja - Pete P
Finland’s Islaja is a busy solo artist with four albums to her name and no prospect of stopping. “I started to experiment sounds and melodies twelve years ago. In 2004 it slowly evolved to a shape of an album. Four albums. And there’s more to come next year." On this tour, will be touting her live album, Live at Blaze Mountain, which is big on melody but with a certain swagger to the bleeps.
For her various unlikely collaborations, Islaja has nothing but enthusiasm. “Friendship bought us together! It’s best to play and travel with nice people and since on this tour I’m collaborating with Blevin Blectum and Samara Lubelski the coolness is certain”.
That’s fair enough but doesn’t the Atlantic ocean prove to be a bit of obstacle? “Okay, what really brought us together is good funding and hard-working people from No Signal and No-Fi.”
Kemialliset Ystavat - Sudet
These are sentiments echoed by another band of Finnish electronic workhorses, Kemialliset Ystavat. “I'm not sure how or why, but Eric from No Signal and Lee from No-Fi got this idea about a collaborative tour and asked us to be part of it. Of course we said yes."
And with over a decade pushing the boundaries and constant recording, they deserve the exposure. Jan explains, “We started in my parents basement 13 years ago using whatever instruments / noise-makers we could find. We recorded hours and hours of improvised songs on tapes. It was fun and we kept going. We never had a steady line-up nor any other real band stuff limiting our expression. At some point I got seriously hooked and started to focus more on the sound and recording and creating my own personal sound world. We have released almost twenty albums, there's been something like 50 people involved. I had no idea that it would come to this and I see no end in sight."
Perhaps it is the long winters but the bands seem to lack the sort of bone-idleness prevalent in any self-respecting British band. So what is the scene like in Finland? “There's a lot of stuff happening. It would be cool if people would be more adventurous with their listening habits and opened their ears to more challenging stuff. It can be very rewarding. Fucking Simon Finn played here in Tampere last night and there was like 10 people in the audience. Insane”
The only explanation is that everyone is at home recording, including Kemialliset Ystavat themselves. “We have a split 12" with Sunroof! coming out soon on Fat Cat Records. Some of the members of our group are involved in a band called Puke Eaters. The first Puke Eates LP is coming out later this year. It will be released together by Lal Lal Lal in Finland and Skulls of Heaven in America.”
Samara Lubelski - Taste the Candy
So how did all of this experimentation manage to connect with its US counterpart? In the case of Samara Lubelski it was an unlikely Finnish love of her old band Hall of Fame. “They're Hall of Fame fans! Theo Angell from Hall of Fame found out when he went over with Jackie O Motherfucker. It’s a heavy connection over a big distance."
For Lubelski herself, the Finns are only the most recent of many collaborators. “I've been involved with Tower Recordings, MV/EE, Metabolismus, Hall of Fame, done stuff on Thurston Moore's last record and I’ve done a lot of solo recordings. Then I met Merja/Islaja in 2004 at a gig in Scotland. I've toured over in Finland since, and we playing on a shared bill there. But this will be the first time we've worked together."
Approximately Infinite Universe will be at the ICA on September 27.