Finland’s music is sometimes overshadowed by its Nordic neighbours. But, at the moment, there are some very salient reasons why you should cock an ear to the top of Europe, to the point where Scandinavia meets Russia, and the West meets East and North. The point where forests and lakes, empty spaces and long dark nights foster an emotional approach to music.
Finland’s scene is thriving and Lost In Music presents just a selection of some of the latest, greatest acts from this wonderful country.
Sitting on top of the deck right now are Murmansk. Named after a town over the border in ‘enemy territory’, and inspired by the great shoegaze bands of the early ’90s, Murmansk are more than simply revivalists. Their wall of sound approach blows your ears out and takes your breath away, mixing Finnish melancholy, brooding distortion and a soaring rock aesthetic. Their tight drumming and taut riffs alone would be reason enough to compliment them, but it is in singer Laura Soininen with whom they have a trump card. Soininen’s caged animal delivery and impassioned yelps during tracks like Moth and the spine-tingling Sumac are very special indeed.
Her performance was just in a series of impressive female turns. Finland, like all Nordic countries, has had a refreshingly enlightened approach to gender equality for years. But lately that rings true more than ever, as Finland’s women are coming to the fore in its music scene. And this can only be a good thing.
Lisa Pykari sings vocals in Regina – a band who tick all the boxes on the Scandic cheat sheet of stylistic recognition; dreamy, folkloric, delicate, experimental, yet a tiny bit mournful at the same time. Pykari saunters and shimmies around the stage like Karen O’s sexy, but better behaved aunty, and the songs will appeal to anyone who’s ever enjoyed a Bjrk album.
In the pop sphere, Finnish females are kicking it too. Ronya is one of the biggest chart artists in this country, which covers a vast area yet has a population less than London’s. The teenager struts around in a leopard print catsuit, and even though Ronya’s backing tracks sound like they’ve been knocked up in five minutes for The Matrix, her voice and attitude still appeal. It’s no wonder she’s loved so much right now.
Chisu is an even bigger star, the ‘Madonna of Finland’, in fact. Her dance-pop relies on big songs and a big sound, which is a hit with the capacity crowd at Klubi – the main venue where the festival takes place. The list of talented women performing this year just goes on and on; Martina, Maija Moisio, Manna – all of them excellent.
Chisu and Lisa Pykari both sing in Finnish, and this mysterious language feels like the local honey in your ears; mellifluous and warming and sugary. It also means you have no idea what the songs are about, unless you rope in a local as a translator, which any of this wonderfully friendly and self-effacing people would be happy to do.
And part of the fun of Lost In Music is taking in that strange atmosphere. Even though this isn’t nearly as far north as Finland stretches, the city of Tampere still feels pretty exotic. In the main square, the civic buildings trick you into thinking you’re in Russia and the chimneys trick you into thinking you’re in the Industrial Revolution. Indeed, the city is charmingly called the ‘Manchester of Finland’ by some jokey residents, because of its industrial past. Its biggest claim to fame is probably phones – the Nokia factory is down the road. And politics – Lenin and Stalin had a love-in over coffee and vodka here. The city is still left-wing, forward-looking and a charming host for this festival of Finnish music.
When you think about the bands that couldn’t make it here, then it’s clear Finnish music is in the best state it’s been for a long time. French Films, who channel The Drums, are one of the best Finnish indie bands right now. Meanwhile Satellite Stories make joyous indie-pop.
But it’s those Finnish women we can’t stop listening to. Let’s hope that electroclash chicks Le Corps Mince De Francoise and the prodigiously talented young singer-songwriter Hanna-Maaria Tuomen will be taking to the stage here next year.