Flow 2016: Descendents

descendents_by_katie_hovland_high_res

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.

 

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Morsian – Intri

Morsian - Intri EP

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.

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Flow 2016: Kamasi Washington

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.

 

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Five must-see Finnish bands at Sideways 2016

Sideways Helsinki 2015

This weekend takes place the first major summer festival in Helsinki. Sideways kicks off the festival season for me. And I’m ready.

Organised by Fullsteam as an alternative version of Flow Festival, the Sideways is virtually sold out with just a handful of tickets left at the regular ticket outlets. Again, Teurastamo, the old abattoir turned culinary and urban culture centre (sic) turned festival venue for the weekend, will be packed with modern festival goers, ready to enjoy a diverse line-up, which includes plenty of hip hop, a healthy selection of Finnish underground bands, stars like PJ Harvey, noise rock, krautrock, a dose of metal and even some dirty punk rock, local and international with Ty Segall.

Ok, the program looks pretty solid for two nights of music, but please Fullsteam, can we get some sun and warm weather? Pretty please with sugar on top. Last year’s edition, the very first Sideways festival, happened during autumnal temperatures and Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman did not need to produce his characteristic terrifying growl to produce shivers down my spine. This year the weather forecast looks promising and we might enjoy more favourable temperatures. In any case, PJ Harvey does not look like she’s going to split our throat as Jaz Coleman does, right?

Anyway,… Sideways is built around a big star, which will attract the audience with the bigger pockets of middle-aged indies. In 2015, that band was The Jesus and Mary Chain, and this year the star is PJ Harvey. This is the first time Polly Jean will play in Finland and will present her latest album The Hope Six Demolition Project. To my ears this is a solid effort, but as with her previous offering Let England Shake, I have tremendous difficulties to listen to the album in one sitting. Both albums feel, well… dull. Still, I’m curious to see her live show. She’s already in the category of once-in-a-lifetime kind of artists and I’ve never seen her on stage before.

As I already said, the rest of program is very diverse, so everyone can find something to their liking when not enjoying side activities like drinking (champagne, wine, craft beer and… ugh Heineken à 7 euro) and festival-level fine dining (burger, pizza, tacos, falafel, noodles, sushi, yummy… à 10 euro). There’s plenty of that in Sideways. Prepare your wallets!

Drinks and food are a given at any festival, but the single most awesome side activity at Sideways is the arcade saloon. Yes, classic videogames. For anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s this is a huge deal. There’s a chance to play again Super Street Fighter II Turbo, arguably the best fighting video game ever, even thought it was very polished compared to the the original Street Figther II. I can still remember some of the special moves. How could I forget? A quarter counterclockwise and punch… Hadoken! Do you remember that? Glorious.

Another great game is Super Sidekicks 2. That was an arcade game but there was also a Neo-Geo version. Neo-Geo, the Rolls Royce of consoles. So classy, so luxurious. I never knew anyone who could offer a Neo-Geo. I only got to know about it reading magazines. Something I knew I would never own. Super Sidekicks 2 was such an addictive football game. The game included only a handful of teams and all the players looked pretty similar. Same body, maybe different skin or hair colour. Somehow the homogenous graphic were comforting. No distractions. The player movements weren’t very fluid and running was sloppy. But oh boy, the game was addictive.

You guessed it, dear reader, I’m looking forward to playing Super Sidekicks 2 as to see PJ Harvey played Big Exit. Do you want to know more? My pal Lauri covers the game selection in his Sideways post. Read it.

Let’s go back to the music. This post is called Five must-see Finnish bands at Sideways 2016 (shameless click-bait headline), so let’s get down to business.

Talmud Beach

Talmud Beach is a band to watch on a hot day while drinking a six pack of beer. Cheap, warm beer, leave that fancy craft beer for another occasion. Equally inspired by ZZ Top and Blind Willie Johnson, there’s nothing very sophisticated about these three balding bearded men playing blues rock. It’s about being shirtless and sweaty, about sticky boogie thanks to fat bass lines and subtle guitar licks.

 

Black Twig

I could tell you a few reasons why you should not miss Black Twig at Sideways. I could write about the heartfelt dreamy melodies. Maybe about the fuzzy guitars. But the main reason to see Black Twig is Blaze on a Plain. That’s the title of the band’s newest album and it is excellent. Seriously, it is. A little gem of guitar driven indie rock.

 

Oranssi Pazuzu

The band has been around for a few good years already but, I must admit I’ve never seen Oranssi Pazuzu live. Maybe I don’t attend enough metal festivals. The band is pushing the boundaries of black metal, entering into unexplored sonic dimensions through drone, psychedelia and a myriad of mind-bending, ear-damaging sounds. Their latest album got a 7.9 on Pitchfork and that’s super good, right?

 

Mara Balls

After the implosion of Jukka Ja Jytämimmit hours before their show at Flow Festival, bassist Mara Balls went solo and put together a new band to, basically, keep on rocking, and rocking hard. The heavy bass commands speedy songs in a hallucinatory Finnish version of Motörhead.

 

Echo Is Your Love

In the small Finnish underground scene, just  manage to play for a long time. After an hiatus, veterans Echo Is Your Love are back. Originally formed in 1998, they played a perfect combination of pop vocals and noisy guitars. They also have the most beautiful band name.

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Lake Jons – In Time

lakejons

Kuva: Markus Kontiainen

The promo picture shows three long-haired young men in the woods, wearing denim and wool sweaters, posing in front of a vintage small-bodied acoustic guitar on top of what it seems to be an improvised tent or tipi. The image presents an accurate portrait of the weekend-in-the-cabin sound of Lake Jons. It’s laid-back folk-pop done by city boys.

Earlier this year, the trio published its debut Explorer EP and fellow blogger Jukka Tulensytyttäjä raved about the first single I Come Clean. It’s a very strong debut, indeed, and the band sounds like it’s been playing this music for a very long time. Bands are not supposed to sound this good in their first release.

A few days ago, Lake Jons returned with a new song entitled In Time. While this track might not be as magical as that EP, the production is equally outstanding, and the vocals are stronger, very charismatic, somewhere between Bon Iver and Ben Bridwell.

In Time tells about the importance of taking chances and, coincidently, this is the time the band will have to take its chance to become one of the most interesting bands in the country. In the coming months, Lake Jons will record their first full-length. Hopefully, we’ll get to hear this album early in 2017. I’ll be very curious to see if the band will bring more rock guitars, as hinted in In Time, or otherwise, it will take a pop direction as in I Come Clean.

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