Flow 2016: Eight Finnish acts to see
If memory serves me right, this will be seventh Flow Festival and that means many hours spent at Suvilahti listening to music. This year I find painful clashes in the schedule as many interesting gigs seem to be happening in the late hours of the festival. In any case, here are my picks among the local artists in the program.
Fri 12.8 21:45 – Lapin Kulta Red Arena
This year singer-songwriter Mikko Joensuu embarked in an ambitious musical project with the release of poignant album trilogy entitled Amen. The second part will arrive in November, but before that at Flow, the singer will perform a very unique show, which includes a 15-piece orchestra and visuals specially designed for this occasion.
Fri 12.8 20:30 – The Other Sound
Since the late 90s, brothers Juha and Vesa Vehviläinen have combined electronic music and visual arts in intense live performances and groundbreaking video art. After taking part this summer in Daydreaming With Stanley Kubrick, an exhibition in London dedicated to the master filmmaker, the live gig at Flow will be another hypnotic sensorial experience.
Sat 13.8 17:00 – Zalando Factory
This is one of my new favourite Finnish bands. This trio plays well-crafted folk from the deepest of the forest. To shake things up, the band adds some rough guitar jams.
Sat 13.8 18:00 – Black Tent
Juuso Ruohonen is meant to be one of the rising stars in Finnish rap music after the release of his debut EP Avalon. He uses English language and the music has a captivating dark tonality that sets him apart from your regular Finnish rap.
Sat 13.8 19:45 – Black Tent
Liima is the union of Finnish percussionist Tatu Rönkkö and Danish band Efterklang. Their debut album ii features songs written in Finland, Berlin, Istanbul and Madeira, and those places inspired surprising soundscapes and textures in a playful combination of electronica and organic sounds.
Sat 13.8. 21:00 – Art Laboratory
A modern take to traditional Finnish folk music. With their three beautiful voices, kantele, bowed lyre and other ancient folk instruments, this six-person band creates far reaching world music with deep roots in Finnish tradition.
Sat 13.8 22:30 – The Other Sound
Better known as the singer of hardcore pionners Terveet Kädet, Läjä Äijälä plays lo-fi, stripped-down blues with The SultanS. Like the work of a long-lost bluesman, the music is elusive, mysterious and hard to find online, so go and see the gig.
Sun 14.8 19:00 – Resident Advisor Backyard
Finnish electro-pop duo Villa Nah, consisting of Juho Paalosmaa and Tomi Hyyppä, is back with new material after a five-year hiatus. To follow-up their critically-acclaimed debut, Villa Nah will release their second album, Ultima, in September and present a new batch of synth-driven pop songs.
Nicole Willis & Jimi Tenor & Tony Allen
Sun 14.8 23:00 – Bright Balloon 360° Stage
Ok, this is not exactly a Finnish act as it includes US-born soulstress Nicole Willis and Fela Kuti alumni and afrobeat master Tony Allen. However, Willis has been based in Finland for a very long time along with her husband and jazz master Jimi Tenor, so she’s partly Finnish, right? Anyhow, the couple will join Tony Allen to blend funk, jazz and soul in a unique collaboration. This will be their first live performance together.
The Shafts – Wallflowers
Helsinki’s The Shafts have been producing their particular brand of DIY pop for quite some time and this summer have just released a new full-length called Wallflowers. As their previous efforts, this is a collection of easy-going songs with sweet melodies and clean chimey guitar tones.
The album opens with the excellent Jangle Time, a little pop nugget greatly inspired by sixties pop. Byrds style. As a matter of fact, there’s plenty of classic pop in Wallflowers, with many songs based on a playful sound palette and showcasing a wry sense of humour. Kinks style.
Listen to the whole album below. It’s worth your time.
Flow 2016: Descendents
Flow Festival is not a usual place to hear some old school punk-rock, and therefore, this year punk pop pioneers Descendents are a welcome addition.
The Californian band has been functioning intermittently since 1977 when its founding members were barely teenagers. Last year the band reformed one more time after singer Milo Aukerman stopped his career as a research biochemist. This summer Descendents are touring full time again to present Hypercaffium Spazzinate, their seventh studio album and the first since 2004.
The Descendents’ discography might not amount to much more than three hours of music, but a band with classic punk rock albums like Milo Goes to College (1982) or Everything Sucks (1996) carries enough songs to put a killer non-stop show. A bunch of two and a half-minute songs to have a good time as if you were back in high school. Quick guitar riffs, wobbly baselines and Auckerman’s typical tongue-in-cheek lyrics. No violent punk songs here, no safety pin, but poppy and melodic hardcore singing to geekiness, the wonders of coffee or simple silly love songs.
At Flow, Descendents will play on Sunday evening. They will play right before Kamasi Washington and for me, this will create a challenge to get a good spot for Kamasi’s show as I will have to rush from one stage to another. I also need to find a way rewire my brain quick and get ready to go from the three-chord punk rock song to a jazz mood. That’s the fun of nowadays eclectic festivals.
Morsian – Intri
Fronted by Panu Räisänen, Helsinki-based outfit Morsian have released an emotive debut EP entitled Intri. Barely 15 minutes, Intri is a beautiful and poignant piece of music, inspired by the introspective cries of Nick Drake and the soundscapes of Sigúr Ros and Sufjan Stevens. The band even dares to label this EP as angel music.
What I really like about it is how it flows, every song follows the previous, softly, seamlessly. Rather than being four different, unconnected songs, the EP is a whole suite, to be listened as a whole work as it reaches climax in the closing Orphan Hymn #2. Very touching music.
Check out below Irtri. It is also available on Spotify and Bandcamp.
Flow 2016: Kamasi Washington
We’re just a few weeks away from a new edition of Flow Festival and this means it’s time to get familiar with some of the groundbreaking, less-known artists on the bill. Every year, I miss a little bit more traditional sounds, some more rock, blues and folk, so for me Flow is an opportunity to keep my ears open and discover new sounds. Even though, I might not get to see my favourite artists, Flow is a very good opportunity to open my ears to new artists, many of them I haven’t heard before. Starting today and until it’s festival time, I’ll post about some of the bands that are engrossing my to-do list at Flow. Let’s start today with Californian jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington.
Last year, I did not pay enough attention to one of the most-acclaimed albums of 2015. Jazzpossu duly informed about Washington’s debut, The Epic, but I did not listened to it on time and ended up missing his gig in Helsinki last November. Shame on me, I know. At Flow, there will be a new opportunity to see Kamasi’s cosmic show and this time, I’ve done my homework. In fact, The Epic has been in heavy rotation on my stereo for the last weeks. And yes, all 2 hours and 54 minutes of it.
Kamasi had the balls of calling his big debut as a jazz bandleader, The Epic, and pose for the artwork in front of two planets. Surprisingly, that’s not an overstatement. With an overwhelming running time of nearly three hours, and many songs over the ten-minute mark, the album packs so much music it can be intimidating. It travels through different colours of jazz. There are echoes of John Coltrane and 70s fusion, but also grittier soul jazz and funk -you might expect Marvin Gaye to start singing at any moment. The underlying 20-people choir and orchestral arrangements that appear through the album connect the different pieces of music and strengthen the music with a touching spirituality. Precisely, it’s this spirituality, certain cosmic quality, what makes this album something very, very special, even though the music might not be entirely original or groundbreaking.
Kamasi Washington and his band are scheduled to play the Bright Balloon 360° Stage on Sunday 14 August. There cannot be a better stage for this music. The Epic offers such a tremendous pool of material to choose from, so obviously the gig can take any direction. The downside is that with just one hour to play, the show might feel way too short.
Despite of the genre and the running time, Kamasi Washington’s music feels very accessible. This, and the saxophonist connections to hip hop (he was part of the band in Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly), guarantee the hype and a packed festival show. It will tough to get a good spot near the iconic rounded stage.