Svart Records Roundup: Here We Come, Death!
Today you’re going to take a look at some of Svart Records’ more “recent” releases in the field of electronic music, and you’re going to complain about it. And it is going to be glorious.
K-X-P – IV
When we last left K-X-P, they’d just finished their two-part space-rock odyssey III. Since then, they’ve released an untitled EP, which supposedly sounds like their intensive, raw live shows – it was a common complaint early on in their career that the albums resembled these shows very little. As it seems to only have been available at these shows, which I’ve never ended up catching, I am wholly unfamiliar with it. Timo Kaukolampi (the band’s “K”) and Tuomo Puranen (you guessed it, the “P”) have since worked together on the award-winning soundtrack of Armomurhaaja (Euthanizer), and Kaukolampi released his solo debut to critical acclaim. Though it feels like so much has happened in between IV and III, Part II that it must’ve been an eternity ago that first got a hold of that record, but in truth it’s barely been three years. Though it has been a good while since I last jammed the band, and I found myself embracing IV with arms wide open.
If on some previous occasions I’ve lamented that more often than I’d wish, K-X-P’s music seems to be building towards something, but suddenly flop without allowing a climax to be achieved, on IV the tension itself is the purpose, and any catharsis reached is through it, not leading from it. The opener “Nimetön Tie” is a 22-minute mammoth that slowly builds from layering electronic rhythms and scarce vocal lines with ambient-like synth melodies before adding drums (the switching drummers providing the bands “X” element) and leading off to a lengthy, hypnotic journey before diminishing to bare texture and slowly rebuilding a beat.
The following “Hex Bag” runs along a similar route, but with fewer layers, leading into a much shorter, but no less rewarding journey. It’s hard to not think of Cult of Luna – especially their Somewhere Along the Highway album – while listening to these two. Similarly the songs sound like a night trip from point A to point B, where the exact location of the points, and very well the points itself, bear no significance whatsoever. What matters is that the trip happened, that it exists, that along the way something happened – tension built, then diminished, and the two states began to alternate. The particularity of said events, or occurrences, whether they were a car crash, a lonely shack along sitting in the middle of the field in faint light, a divine revelation or untold horrors is irrelevant.
The last of the three songs, “Night Eye – Smile Through Tears” differs from the above two in the sense that even though it follows again along similar lines, it’s growth and diminishing seem to be dictated more casually by songwriting. Suddenly there is relevance to be found from the start, from the end and from the nature of the occurrences. It is the only one of the songs that seems to be building towards something, right down to it’s last seconds it edges on the verge of climax but instead opts to fade away, a reminder of the eternal disappointment of deriving pleasure only from achievements, and not from the work towards them. Existence has no purpose. Existence is purpose.
Sometime in 2010-ish, I was introduced to a band called Nightsatan, who had freshly released their debut Midnight Laser Warrior, and self-proclaimed themselves the ambassadors of laser metal. A trio utilizing an electronic drum-kit, and two sets of synths their intention was to play metal without the instruments commonly associated with it. Looking back it’s hardly a flawless record, but remains a great one, and it did capture the intended sound, coming off like a doom metal band much of the time. I was eager in my anticipation for their sophomore, but it never seemed to come. It obviously did, but And The Loops of Doom, released in 2014 was a soundtrack to the band’s self-made movie carrying the same title, and sounded more like a complimentary work to the film, than following what the debut had led me to understand was the band’s vision, and still sits without a successor.
Ronskibiitti is a hip-hop group I was only nominally familiar with. Ronski & Satanic is the two coming together for a full-length. These days I barely even try to keep up with the flow of new releases, but somehow I totally missed the fact that this was released late last year, and not like, two months ago. So, for that I apologize, insincerely, and we’re good to go.
Rather than a fully fledged melding of the two groups’ sounds, Täältä Tullaan, Kuolema! is a hip hop record, with retrosynth beats, provided by Nightsatan, usually minimalistic – which fits well into the band’s own template, though perhaps further still moving towards conventional beats. Although the songs present a wide array, ranging from the minimal chords of the Enigma-summoning “Mustat Pilvet”, pattering arpeggios of “Rio Grande” and the night-time pop of highlight “Suhteellista” to the atmospheric “Galileo Galilei” and Tähtiportti-esque “Coveni”, a connection which is further underlined with a feature from Sami Hynninen, and all the way to the kick-heavy, uh, gabber(?) of “Nuijasota“. I’m not honestly very well versed with the different genres of electronic (dance) music, but it sort of sounds similar to what I know of gabber. Despite the apparent overflow of styles, it’s all kept together well and with a coherent flow.
Though Nightsatan gets to flex their muscles on a few songs, the instrumental closer “Ronski ja Satanic Anthem” and the mid-section of “Galileo Galilei” for ones – but largely the focus is on Ronskibitti’s flexible flow, and partially occultism inspired lyrics that retain a reserved tongue in cheek flavour. Alongside Malibu Ken’s debut, it’s the most replayed hip hop record of the last couple of years, for me.
Tähtiportti – Abiristeily
Abiristeily, is a concept supposedly born in Finland, in the 80’s, where a cruise ship on the Baltic Sea is filled with teens preparing to graduate high school. Tähtiportti has justified their latest album being named after it by asking people to visualize abiristeily as a limbo-like state where a person lives and exists while transitioning from youth to adulthood. Life spent dreaming, freed from responsibility and duties, where nothing is impossible. Hangover’s do not feel like hangovers, and the very thought of life as a finite concept seems absurd, no dream is too big to be dreamt. Later, life’s wretchedness is revealed, and thus Abiristeily also deals with loneliness and outsider-ness.
Each of Tähtiportti’s previous records led deeper into the rabbit hole of weirdness, gay anthems, esoteric techno-occult and proto-industrial slam poetry. It’s hard to believe that I could have legitimately enjoyed Superdepressio half as much as I did, if I had not practically played through my copy of Eetterimessu. Likewise, without the self-titled debut, it could have proven too much and it’s largely thanks to the single “Tähtiportti IV” that I ever got interested in it. Abiristeily does not take it’s place in that line, it would have been as good an entry point to the band, as the chronological beginning was. Which does not make Abiristeily an easy album, in some ways, in the context of Tähtiportti, it’s even weirder than before. But in relation to the surrounding world, it’s also closing in on conventional, in ways that the band hasn’t before. Now featuring drums, bass and a guitar, where required, songs like “Hetki” and “Abiristeily II” are contained by a rock-drive, but eschewing formulaic songwriting, and at times it seems, formula itself. Others, like “Juhlatalo” flirts with depressed synthpop with the other hand, while the other forces raw alcohol down a choking man’s throat. Some songs alternate between a select few motifs, while others keep developing throughout their length, with little concern to structure, each guided by narrative that Hynninen gives voice to.
Abiristeily contains the final recordings of Perttu Häkkinen, a journalist, musician and occult-enthusiast, who tragically lost his life last August, at the age of 39. This further complicates the matter of reviewing Abiristeily, as it has ceased to be a “mere” album, and become a monument to his memory. How much weight should his ghost calling from beyond be given, when it clearly cannot be completely ignored? Does it matter? Abiristeily is a good album, a great album, a different album. And “Imettäjät” the only legitimate challenger to Käppi’s “Ikoni” as the song of the year. Blessed be, the Finnish summer.
Think About Music – Musik von Harmönia
Svart Records is launching a new subsidiary, called Svartronix, which will focus on releasing Finnish, electronic music into international markets. For starters, by releasing compilations from the discographies of some cult labels.
The first of these will be called Think About Music – Musik von Harmönia 2006 – 2014. Operated by Tatu “Mesak” Metsätähti and Perttu “Randy Barracuda” Häkkinen, it was a vinyl-centric label that seemed to focus on skweee-music, which if you’re not familiar with, I briefly touched upon on the earlier days of my tenure. 24 songs, and extensive booklet with plentiful photographs and foreword by Einar Engström, a skweee enthusiast and a journalist it will likely be the best possible entry into the world of skweee for the uninitiated.
This has been your fortnightly unpaid advertisement. No I am not being paid to write these. Sir, I said sir! I resent the accusations of nepotism and bribery. Each of the bands’ Facebook pages have been linked above, so go say something to them, or visit Svart Records FB page.