She's just adorable :D
Quite some time ago, I bought my half-Finnish man a Finnish language CD-rom and course book. He'd expressed regret at never having learned the language at home. His mum spoke it and Timo and his two brothers did make some Finnish noises when they were children, but the language didn't really stick.
He didn't really get very far with the course materials. His version is that I was too bossy when trying to correct his pronunciation and whilst learning all the swearwords was of some use, he didn't feel inspired enough to continue.
Now that we're married and the course materials have gathered quite an impressive layer of dust on the top shelf of our bookcase, the greatest thing ever has happened: Katja's newly minted husband has declared he wants to learn Finnish. He's English through and through. Voilà, my husband now feels like this is some sort of challenge; the gauntlet has been thrown.
With his mind thus properly focused, Timo has made impressive leaps towards being able to understand the finer points of Viivi and Wagner and can't be too many years off being able to understand the other great literary W - the Finnish national treasure, Mika Waltari.
Current progress is still mostly focused on greetings and suchlike. So, okay, we're some distance off reading Sinuhe (The Egyptian) in the original language. But I'm convinced with his new found motivation, he will get there!
Whilst reading out loud some words intended to stretch the foreign mouth's ability to handle Finnish vowels, Timo fell in love with "höpö höpö" (which roughly translates to "poppycock" or "nonsense"). It's one of those delicious words (well, a pair of words really) that sounds appropriate for the intended purpose. Just like the English "poppycock".
The following chapter - on questions and appropriate answers - was highly entertaining because, in the style of "that would be an ecumenical matter", I suggested "höpö höpö" could be used as an answer to everything. Just try it and see!
Meanwhile, we've been trying to think of where to take Timo's Finnish cousin and his girlfriend when they visit London in November. I don't really want to see Avenue Q again (as brilliant as it was, we've got the soundtrack now and may have over-played it juuuuust a little. But then, can you blame us? "The internet is for porn" is even on my iPod). Anyway, I've suggested Monkey. Now that it has moved to its dedicated venue, maybe we'd stand a chance of getting tickets. I was so gutted for having missed it the first time.
The illustrations I did for Frank Farrow's solo project This Life look so much better on the re-issued CDs. Kunaki's site is also designed so that you can rotate the jewel case. Cool.
Frank is working on a new album and I wish I had the time to do another cover. Then again, Frank's own painting will look wonderful and vibrant (I've seen a sneak preview!). Most importantly, I've also had a sneak preview of one of the songs due to be released on the next album and it made chills go up and down my spine because suddenly things moved up to a whole new dimension. So far This Life's style has been instrumental guitar, sometimes soothing, sometimes playful, sometimes experimental; always inspiring. I've loved Frank for letting me do pretty much whatever comes to mind after listening to his albums non-stop for a few days or weeks. Don't get me wrong - we've obviously discussed what he would prefer and I've sent him proposals and sketches via email, but the briefs have been loose. My favourite when illustrating.
I find music such an easy thing to draw about. Sounds are often of a particular colour and texture anyway and they transcribe themselves on paper without much cajoling.
Instrumental soundtracks to films are my favourite kind of thinking/creating music. Frank's albums could be used for something that way; they sound of stories.
Actually, he took the names for both of these from something I said to him about the music. That was an honour.
You know what's funny - we've never met face-to-face. With Frank being in USA, it may be some time before we do. I look forward to that day.
Going to Finland has its hazards. Like being exposed to this sort of thing. Only I don't seem to be alone in thinking that it's so bad it's good! But then again, a great many products of the 70s entertainment industry were.
The bit where the dancers all line up and the front man suddenly wiggles his hips is my favourite.
LORDI is making an appearance in London on the 12th of June. Head down to HMV Oxford Street for around 1.30pm for a chance to meet the monsters! I know I will... by a fortunate coincidence that's a day I have booked off, as I was going to make a special journey to Charles Fox in Covent Garden. Now it looks like a detour is in order.
Lordi members can also be caught online - there is an international forum that lists gigs, events, releases and other related mishmash. The band members occasionally post there, so if you're a wannabe Lordi-groupie (or should it be Lordi's bitch?), then maybe you should register. Be warned, the average age seems to be quite low; several off-topic discussions circle around grades, bullying and school in general. Still, there seems to be a good vibe about the place and hey, I'm sure Lordi's monster-members would agree: hard rock knows no age barriers. Heheee.
In other news, there are rumours that Lordi will join forces with KISS (the latter being responsible for much of the Finnish band's original influence and inspiration) in a New York showcase, designed to promote the group to an American audience.
Lordi scored more points in Eurovison than anyone else. Ever.
Last night's results left many far behind; even Terry Wogan's favourite choice, Bosnia-Herzegovina. UK's entry was allocated only 25 points.
1. Finland - Lordi 292
2. Russia - Dima Bilan 248
3. Bosnia-Herzegovina - Hari Mata Hari 229
4. Romania Mihai Träistarlu 172
5. Sweden - Carola 170
6. Lithuania - LT United 162
7. Ukraine - Tina Karol 145
8. Armenia - André 129
9. Greece - Anna Vissi 128
10. Ireland - Brian Kennedy 93
19. UK - Daz Sampson 25
The fact that the self-parodying, pus-oozing, crazy, funny Finnish blokes who play 80s inspired monster rock have won, shows that the general Eurovision watching public may have shifted from your nan and the secretly gay neighbourhood uncle to a much wider audience with a taste for the absurd. And Lordi's winning ticket was that by being the most absurd of all, they made everyone else's entry look like a parody. Out of tune Barbie and Ken dolls. Quality!
I've laughed so much that I feel a bit bunged up this morning. Adding to my amusement were the news reports from Finland (following translated and paraphrased from several articles from the current issue of the main Finnish newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat):
Before the voting begun, the situation in Athens still seemed tricky;
Lordi had been allocated the worst possible slot in the contest, right
after the host country's Greece's entry. By the time Lordi performed, the
audience had lost some of their enthusiasm for jumping up and down, but Lordi
collected points from the very first voting round onwards nevertheless.
Lordi is going to appear at the "Kauppatori" (main market square in Helsinki) on Monday,
as promised to their fans before the contest. (That explains why they were
holding bits of paper up during the contest, which stated: "Meet you at
Lordi's Eurovision win sent Finns to a night-time frenzy; the police had to get
involved when the streets filled up with people running around with Finnish flags,
hooting horns, driving their cars around in circles and setting off fireworks.
The financing of next year's Eurovision song contest has presented a problem to the
Finnish media. The directors of the state media company have, however, decided in
an emergency meeting this morning that the contest will definitely be held in Finland
Speaking of which, I really must find a way to attend. Sadly, I bet all of Finland is thinking the same thing.
WE WON! FINLAND WON! OH MY GOD! 0_0
Lordi really did rawk the Eurovision song contest.
This is a very special moment; shhh. I am just so proud to be Finnish right now.
As many traditional media sources have already gleefully reported, the 2006 Finnish Eurovision song contest entry will definitely not be what you'd expect. But let me correct these aforementioned sources - the entry is very much what you'd expect if you knew about the Finnish deadpan humour and mentality. I am delighted and even a little gleeful that my lovely, quirky homeland has decided to share its sense of humour around the world by entering Lordi - a Finnish Spinal Tap, or thereabouts - into the contest with a song called "Hard Rock Hallelujah". Sadly, and rather predictably, not many people (not even all Finns, judging by the local media reaction) "get" the tongue-in-cheek element of Lordi. Reports from the Eurovision 2006 host country Greece and from the Finnish church authorities, asking for immediate removal of Lordi from the contest, suggest that some people seem not to be getting the joke.
Lordi sounds like a hybrid between all of the 80s cheesy hard rock bands; a soundtrack to a b-list horror flick; with an underlying pop-sensibility that might even make it popular in countries other than Finland.
The Guardian wrote:
The trauma of losing the Eurovision Song Contest can do funny things to a country. In Finland, where the words "nul points" are burned into the national psyche, they have decided to take radical action and appoint hard-rocking death metal band Lordi as their Eurovision entry for 2006. A far cry from the breezy folk tunes and ultra-safe pop of traditional Eurovision fare [...]
Wait a second there, matey! You are confusing Finland with Norway! I don't recall any folk song entries from Finland! Oh, I admit. Most people seem to happily lump Nordic and Scandinavian countries into one compartment in their heads, probably entitled "That meatball guy from The Muppets".
Still, I felt it was my duty as a Finn to write the alternative announcement about Lordi, so here I am. Finland has graced the Eurovision song contest with its presence since 1961 and has always entered with a fabulously cheesy pop song in the true nature of the contest. Definitely no folk songs in sight. Who knows, with groups like Värttinä, maybe Finland should have used a folk song once in a while?
The 2006 Eurovision song contest will be broadcast from Athens on the 20th of May.
Cross-posted to: Blogcritics.org
The echoes of 80s rock and a new generation of intricate electro-pop melodies reverberate to us through this fresh-faced group from San Antonio, Texas.
The choice of name - The Panic Division - doesn't seem to quite match the sound: there is nothing panic-inducing or anxious about their music, but perhaps the monicker is designed to appeal to those who would seek to be funky, punky and on the edge without getting too dangerous.
Versus is the group's first album on the Militia Group label, but they have previously recorded two albums while unsigned. The band has worked hard to get to where it is today, but still has a long way to go. Now revered by the San Antonio community as a local treasure, The Panic Division deserves to have a future - and Versus will be purchased by later fans in order to complete their record collections with “an early rough-cut gem from The Panic Division boys".
An evocative collage of loops, riffs and vocals - all skillfully adhered together but lacking a real central thread - results in an experience reminiscent of the progress of an opera. The title track on Versus is the overture, the following tracks set the scene, in "Little Child" we have a small interlude and then the album reaches a crescendo with "Sweet Devotion" at track #7, where the shouting and the raw side of rock is orchestrated just to the right side of noise.
It does not surprise me one bit to discover that the group's creative process often spawns from the electro-synth loops and that many tracks are constructed around them, rather than the reverse. This could explain why track #4, "Paradise", a Duran-Duran-esque chart-worthy electro-pop track stands out to me as easily the strongest on the album. It's the only track I keep singing along to; the only one that sticks in my head for days afterwards and makes little shivers run down my spine.
And this is the only problem with the group - the sound is almost too easy to get into, too easy to tune into the background, not memorable enough in its own right - yes, this music is full of feeling, it is music for the road; music for moments alone, music you reach out for when turning a new leaf, music you think back to when you're far away from home - but which tunes would you really remember?
Having listened to this album for some weeks now, I can always recall the way it made me feel, but only a couple of songs come back to me as complete melodies. This suggests that whilst the group is definitely polished, well put together and likeable, they also lack a certain edge - something to make your ears perk up and tell their sound apart from the hubbub of easy-to-digest rock-pop out there. They have created a rich tapestry, but need to weave in a strong story.
The experience would probably be perfectly suited to a live performance and luckily enough, the Panic Division are currently touring in the USA. Check the website for dates and locations.
A little while ago, I requested an item for review from Blogcritics; a yet-to-be released music CD. I only had a small description to go by, but something about it grabbed me, so I grabbed it.
Imagine my surprise, when it turned out that the CD was, in fact, a half Finnish production! I had obviously homed in on something. And strangely, in the music of Mi and L'au one can find a home, even if there is no Finnish in you.
What does the ice-covered brook running through the dark thicket of a Finnish forest sound like at the depth of night when noone is near? What sound does the white ray of sun make when it cuts through the achingly blue sky? How will you whisper to your lover's ears inside a wooden cottage when the storm is beating at the doors?
Enter into the world of Mi's soft voice and the instruments and guitar strings of L'au; picking his way through the melody as if slowly pacing on the hand woven rag-rug they are certain to have at home. L'au sings on some of the tracks too; his voice a little more pronounced, but still like covered in wool.
Behind the music is a love story and in the music itself is the seed of an epic in the making. It needs to grow - this debut album is like the first breath of a child, but I am waiting for what will follow with trepidation.
From the press release:
Mi and L'au met in Paris a few years back. Mi is Finnish and was working as a model to make ends meet and L'au (who's French) was working in the music industry (soundtracks, I think). They fell deeply and immediately in love, and after a short period of moving from apartment to apartment in Paris, they gave everything up and decided to move to the woods in Finland, so they could be alone together in peace and to spend their time discovering each other and their music. They live in a small cabin in complete isolation with the barest of essentials and they spend virtually all their time making music together in solitude.
Mi and L'au remind me a little of another couple-based group: Lamb. Only Lamb has the added texture and the rhythm of a bustling city, where Mi and L'au use so much space in their musical Feng Shui that sometimes it's a little excessive and rather makes me think of a painter who has started working on details too early and is now afraid to take the bold strokes to make the work truly complete.
On the other hand, some of the tracks are near perfection. A particular mood conveyed just so. Take How - the tempo drags its long arms on the ground, leaving trails in the snow. It feels like a testament to the Finnish tendency for deep depression.
Finland has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world. The long, extremely cold winter and lack of light, coupled with genetic disposition for various self-destructive behaviours probably don't help this statistic. As a Finn, I find the idea of someone living - actually setting up home - in that remote cottage in the forest more than a little insane, if not impossible.
If you think you've experienced isolation, trust me, you haven't, not until you've been to that cottage in, say, January. Everything miles and miles away. Pee freezing to your genitals before it manages to evacuate.
The living-in-a-remote-Finnish-cottage could either be a stylised version of the truth (I don't know any Finn who doesn't winter at a flat or a house with central heating and triple-glazed windows: to do otherwise would be literally lethal), or perhaps they have a few more mod cons than the press release would have us believe.
Nevertheless, I am sure this couple does live in isolated surroundings, because it shows through in their work. Just like writers are told "write about what you know", all creatives need to use resources from their environment in order to produce.
In the case of Mi and L'au this is both a blessing and a curse. Much of the music sounds as if it is a part of something else; like a soundtrack. Highly visual (then again, all music is somewhat visual for me, but we know all about that already, so I won't go into it again). I happen to adore soundtracks for this reason. They really help me work on paintings and other things. I would love to illustrate to this music. Perhaps I'll try that one day. The pictures would be minimalist, composed, monochrome - with ever such a slight hint of a sinister, unhinged undertone and red-hot emotional charge, but buried so deep you're not sure if it's really there or if you're imagining it.
Mi and L'au should take a few, long trips to bustling cities, or wild jungles. I think the results would produce recordings of such intoxicating beauty that simply everyone would want to hear.
I found this debut CD to be like an appetizer for something great yet to come, but still good enough in its own right that I would have bought it anyway. It was particularly wonderful in the last two weeks when my life was chaos, stress and over-work; having this music in my headphones when working late eased the tension from my mind like a soothing balm.
This is part of The Sunday Review series.
Ozric Tentacles is a brand of psychedelic prog-rock flavour breakfast cereal that every creative person should try at least once. Why? Because the mesh of riffs and melodies that is their sound, will make its way through the ear canals and slowly seep out of your eyeballs in an exquisite kaleidoscopic colour fantasy.
If you have Ozrics in the background and pen, pencil, chalk, Photoshop, typewriter, pasta collage - anything to create with - in front of you and nothing happens, then there's something wrong.
Let me re-phrase: if nothing good happens.
Ozrics are mind-food. Medicine against blank-page-panic.
Prog rock is such an irritating label. Perhaps even more so than "pop" or "rock". Deep Purple and Pink Floyd have their place, but it feels wrong that they should be cheek-to-cheek with the Ozrics. Nothing is in the same category.
I perceive the world around me through mild synaesthesia (although so do most people without realising it; I guess what I'm saying is: my synaesthesia is stronger than average). Ozric Tentacles hit the Syn nerve on the spot. (I just made up the Syn nerve, but go with it).
In fact, I'd venture as far as to say that the perfect treatment option for someone who's a little stiff and rigid in the creative department would be to gently introduce a course of Ozrics, starting, perhaps, with Jurassic Shift, one of my favourites. The dormant Syn nerve would twang into action equally well with Strangeitude or Pungent Effulgent.
The group has released 20-odd recordings since its formation in the mid eighties, yet is classified as "underground". This is no Tony Tiger; I'll admit that Ozrics won't appeal to the masses. It's not an easy sell. It won't fit into a bite-size chart show. It's not revolutionary. It doesn't deviate too much from its central theme. You can listen to some samples on the official website and decide for yourself. I recommend longer than a few seconds though - so if you are of the Napster persuasion, go, download!
All of the above form part of the appeal for me. I enjoy sharing this under the table secret with the select few. So, I'll admit - every time I find myself enjoying a chart-topping act, I wince just a little. This is, of course, terribly contrived and silly of me because if I'd truly achieved the state of being free of mass influence, I would go with whatever takes my fancy, regardless of whether a few squillion others fancied the same thing too.
And this brings me nicely to Röyksöpp. An indie band from Norway. Nay, a chart-climbing indie band from Norway. They're good. Really good. Maybe there's some kind of secret Nordic code hidden in the tracks; a native memory of a sound just so, that happens to appeal to the Finn in me - who knows, I'm just babbling now - but some of the tracks are "little hairs at the back of your neck standing up" good. I'll have to throw the contrived snobbery out with the rubbish; this stuff is becoming popular, but I like it. Maybe the snobbery is more to do with my regard for the faceless general public: can it really tell mass-produced talentless hacks from true gems? Just a rhetorical question.
Röyksöpp could be described as dance, as pop, as indie - again, no befitting category there. This, I find, is always a good sign.
Categorisation fails completely when talking about Lamb. Is it drum and bass? Is it pop? Is it dance? Who knows. It's like a warm pebble you happened to pick up from an otherwise bleak beach; it's nestled in your pocket and keeping you warm, all in secret. You smile to yourself because B-line is stuck in your head and most people associate mint sauce with Lamb, not this.
Fear of fours is the raw - and in my opinion most appealing - example of the Lamb-effect, but the 1996 debut was enough to get me hooked. If you like Portishead, Bjork, or, indeed, Röyksöpp, I recommend you give Lamb a whirl.
This is part of The Sunday Review series.