Vinyl VVednesday: Finnish Him! (Vol. 1)

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Hi there. Let’s examine and discuss some vinyl releases, shall we? I’ll try to do my best to do this every week. Do you want in? If so, please sound off in Disqus. For this first [official] entry of Vinyl VVednesday I’m going to share with you a small sample of amazing Finnish bands whom deserve our attention: Siinai and Kairon; IRSE! (the exclamation point is part of their name). So grab yourself a coffee with a shot of piimä, pair it with a link of pork makkara, and view this on a computer running an operating system designed by Linus Tordvalds—it’s about to get Finnish up in here…

SiinaiSykli

Let me tell you about the serendipitous “big bang” which led to my discovery of the greatest music-producing country on God’s green Earth: promotional material from a stellar band called Siinai, to whom I gave a few words ov praise in 2017 (linked contained here). Back then I said, “This is an album which may spur me to finally purchase a turntable and start a vinyl collection,” which turned out to become true…it was the first new vinyl purchase I made after acquiring the equipment to play it (a decision my ears love, but my wallet hates).

This (mostly) instrumental, minimalist band gives us moments of serene quiet and bombastic loud in equal measures, with the utmost patience and restraint, often in the same song. If you possess a spiffy graphic equalizer, you can see the moments when the bars are completely blank and minutes later reaching towards the sky. A prime example of this range of dynamism can be found on the title track of this masterpiece:

Flip it over to side B and we’re greeted with the pulsing, bass-heavy “Ananda.” At 11:25, it’s the longest song on here and also the most organic (in opposition to the more electronic songs). When played on a system with a good sub-woofer, you’ll be able to feel the rumbling bass guitar, but also be able to detect the imperfections that come with music being played by human hands. I gave the album 4.9 stars back then, and it remains in frequent rotation on the turntable. This album was a game changer for me, I adore it.


SiinaiSupermarket

“Horror synths and drones inspired by a trip to the supermarket” – NME

“A tribute to convenience stores that creates magic from the mundane” – TimeOut

Sykli was so good that I simply had to delve deeper into their discography and acquire the album which came before it, a concept album on the subject matter of a visit to the supermarket. Released in 2014, this record contains songs with titles like “Shopping Trance,” “Smiling Cashier,” and, um, “Aeiouyäö,” many of which are shorter than the ones from Sykli. It’s really an achievement when a band can vividly evoke the mundane feelings of shopping for groceries underneath blinding fluorescent lights, passing people going forward on the wrong side of the aisle, and waiting in the check-out line for somebody searching his wallet for a coupon which grants $0.20 off a bag of avocados. (I hope that description doesn’t scare you away, it’s utterly fantastic!) Long ambient passages, looping synths, pulsating bass lines, and a knack for great songwriting are the ingredients that make this a bit of a hidden gem. The overall sound is quite similar to that of Sykli; so if you enjoy one, there’s a great chance you’ll like the other. It’s tough to pick a favorite, each release feels like the opposite side of a coin to the other.

Kaison; IRSE!Ujubasajuba

I wrote quite a bit about this band on a piece about Finnish prog rock, so I’ll refrain from repeating all that information here. Their 2014 release Ujubasajuba may only be their second LP but it sounds like a band that has perfected a successful recipe over multiple years of honing their craft. It’s truly a bizarre combination of progressive rock, stoner rock, crunchy guitar-driven alternative, and ethereal vocals that sound like they were extracted from a 90’s trip-hop band (Hooverphonic is who I have in mind). Somehow it all works…incredibly well.

I really appreciate the band’s quirky aesthetic, which is as present in the artwork as within the music itself; it illustrates what I think of as that offbeat Finnish sense of humor that you see in bands like Tähtiportti. You can read all the musical details in the article I linked above, but definitely take a glance at the killer artwork on this sturdily constructed gatefold double album. (And also listen to the embedded song below, a stunning song among a whole album of stunners.)


Kairon; IRSE!Ruination

Released in 2017, the next evolution from this excellent band takes a more psychedelic turn away from the crunch and the fuzz of what preceded it, installing cleaner guitars and a production quality that gives each instrument a little more room to breathe. The compositions are no less complex though, and that makes this prog-head very happy. While I described Siinai’s two aforementioned releases as two sides of the same coin, Ruination and Ujubasajuba are like the Yin and the Yang: two absolute beasts that the listener might not think came from the same band if she wasn’t told. You might like one and not the other. I however, consider both to be five star releases (no, really I do).

Again, the artwork is simply stunning and the packaging as beautiful as you would expect from anything from Finland. If I am allowed one small complaint, it’s the track layout on this double LP release. Side A contains only the first song, clocking in at 12:18 and similarly, side B contains only one which is 13:08. It’s a shame the manufacturer didn’t try to fit both on one side, making it slightly inconvenient when jamming the whole thing. I believe the pressing facilities tried a little harder to push the limits of the format in the past, when there was more of a focus on lower cost to the consumer, but it’s a minor gripe. The music is fantastic and of course the nature of progressive rock / metal benefits greatly from the analog nature of vinyl.

These two bands managed to scratch an itch I never knew I had in life. Let this be a lesson to you: never stop exploring new music—there is stuff that you never knew existed in this universe, just waiting to be discovered.

You can find physical copies of Sykli, Ujubasajuba, and Ruination on Svart Records’ excellent website. (I did have to look elsewhere for Supermarket though.) Their layout is perfect and they include SoundCloud or BandCamp embeds on each release, when applicable. Do sign up for their newsletter, because they feature frequent sales—really good ones. Oh, and lastly, make sure to keep an eye out for Karhu’s recurring Svart Records Round-up series in which he lets us know what we need to know.

Kairon; IRSE! on BandCamp. Siinai on BandCamp.

Part two is coming soon, and it’s a real butt kicker.

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