From the evidence of the sleeve alone, singer Heidi Kilpelainen’salter ego, HK119, is quite a character – literally. With panda blackeyes and a terrifying grimace, she looks like she could hold her own ina cat fight with Grace Jones.
On further investigation, the initial impression is confirmed. Withhistrionic twists of Lene Lovich, Siouxsie Sioux and David Byrne,Kilpelainen’s vocals perfectly match her futuristic, comic book stageincarnation. With a penchant for wearing black catsuits and plenty ofbacofoil onstage, the image is decidedly space opera. “Instead ofmaking it to Mars I feel I get stuck on Earth,” she sings in In-Valid,and it’s easy to imagine her starring in a B-movie sci-fi thrillerstarring the bloke out of Quantum Leap. HK119 would play the vampishalien seductress who tried to claw his eyes out before he blows her upwith a laser gun, of course.
Okay, back to the album. Opening with what sounds like a botchedspace announcement and a computer’s modem connecting itself to theinternet, it segues into a understated funk number about a lady “havinga friend for dinner”. To eat alive, that is. Malfunction and Pick MeUp are stripped-down Numan-esque servings of electro pop designed forrobot dancing. But it’s not all aimed at the disco. Censor Me is apretty ballad and hidden track, Taysikuu is an Eastern-Europeansounding waltz (albeit played on synth and drum machine).
At best, HK119’s sound is Bjork‘s Army of Me crossed withHazel O’Connor‘s Eighth Day, or Alison Goldfrapp‘sscarier, older sister picking up a synthesizer on her way to a fetishclub. But not all the album lives up to that standard – the second half(and at 17 tracks you certainly get your money’s worth) loses its popedge and verges on fairly (sub)standard electro-industrial punk. Whichin this day and age, sounds a little dated.
Apparently an arts graduate from Central St Martins, Kilpelainen hasclearly invented HK119 as the persona of a performance artist of whichmusic is part, but not the whole. I can well imagine that this mighthave been part of her final art project. With this in mind, it’sprobably the case that the album makes more sense and impact whenviewed live where you’d get to see her perform the numbers incharacter.
Patchy though this debut album is, HK119 certainly brings a bit ofspace glitter and humour to a world where insipid schmatlz (mentioningno names… oh alright then, Coldplay and James Blunt) isconsidered music par excellance. It’s a shame she’s unlikely to set thecharts alight any time soon; nevertheless, it’s good to have heraround.