Sunday 27 October 2013


Finland’s RUMBA magazine has just celebrated its 30th anniversary (the issue dated 0.9.2103-18.10.2103) and I was asked to write for it – a privilege. The piece was on Musta Paraati’s Peilitalossa, an album I’d never heard beforehand. They were RUMBA's first cover stars.

This was written after receiving the Svart Records reissue, but I didn’t read its liner notes so as to have a completely fresh impression. After much brow furrowing, Joy Division didn't bubble up from the mix.

Below is the piece in Finnish as it appeared and below that, for non-Finnish speakers, the English version. 

Coming to Musta Paraati’s Peilitalossa cold is a daunting experience. Here are four young men gathered on the sleeve amongst the columns of what appears to be a cathedral. Only one of them is looking at the camera and he’s doing that sideways. On the back, they seem to be in the process of leaving somewhere. It’s an album declaring “don’t look me in the eye, don’t work out what I’m about.” Whatever Musta Paraati may have been saying back then, 30 years later I’ve been asked to react to encountering the cover stars of Rumba’s first issue for the first time.

Outside Finland in 1983, Musta Paraati meant nothing. In its Christmas 1983 issue, achingly trend-conscious British music weekly New Musical Express revealed its top album for the year: Elvis Costello’s Punch the Clock. Michael Jackson’s Thriller was at five. The Top Ten also included Tom Waits’s Swordfishtrombones, Billy Bragg’s Life a Riot With Spy vs. Spy, Culture Club’s Colour by Numbers, King Sunny Ade’s Synchro System. Echo & the Bunnnymen's Porcupine – possibly on Musta Paraati’s wavelength – was a lowly 32. The NME’s competitor Melody Maker picked Eurythmics’s Touch as its top for the year, with Big County’s The Crossing at two. Our musical bibles weren’t thinking about Finland.

In their reader’s poll of 1983, published in the fourth issue, Musta Paraati were Rumba’s second best band – between Hanoi Rocks and Eppu Normaali. Peilitalossa was the top Finnish album. Inside the first issue, interviews with Lords of the New Church and Grandmaster Flash were complemented by features on Sticky Fingers, Van Hurskas and the still-extant Yö. Finland had music to celebrate and wasn’t totally off the map: New Order played Helsinki with fellow Factory Records’s band Section 25 in September 1981. It was the first time “Temptation” was aired live.

Nowadays, Finnish post-punk is less familiar than punk, largely due to the incredible Punk Ja Yak! box set. Eppu Normaali and Ratsia are – relatively – well known outside Finland. And Ratsia’s fantastic 1982 album Jäljet is – for me, so far – Finnish post-punk’s peak moment. Spending time with Peilitalossa was going to be an education.

Musically, Peilitalossa’s roots are explicit. The bass guitar and rolling drums opening “Ennustus” are reminiscent of Killing Joke, as is a lot of the album’s forward-motion chug. Bizarrely, the Killing Joke song most coming to mind in relation to “Ennustus” is “Eighties” , the future basis of Nirvana’s “Come as You Are”. Bizarre as “Eighties” was issued in 1984, a year after Peilitalossa.

The other British band bubbling up are tribal punks Southern Death Cult. Musta Paraati’s “Veitsen Terällä” could easily be reconfigured as the sort of anthem The Cult – who evolved from Southern Death Cult – later doled out. To a lesser extent, New Model Army and The Sisters of Mercy are in there too, both of whom first attracted attention in Britain in 1982. There is nothing American about Peilitalossa, which clearly draws from a deep knowledge and enthusiasm for the UK’s alternative scene.

But Peilitalossa is not British and does not sound British. This is about more than language, which obviously informs the rhythmic bed. Although Musta Paraati would have had no problem taking Britain’s stages in 1983, their songs are structured idiosyncratically: choruses and verses are split from each other by short segments diving off elsewhere. Some of this is to accommodate texture from synth and the odd snatch of drum machine, but it’s a sensibility unique to the band.

Whether Musta Paraati considered it or not, the most striking thing about them is that they would have brought something fresh to Britain in 1983 and found an audience. What they were singing about would not have mattered. Our loss, Finland’s gain. Naturally, the NME would have hated them.

Sunday 13 October 2013


As a Finnish band choosing to sing in Finnish, Regina might initially appear to have put limits on their appeal. As is always true though, language is no barrier. And, helpfully, their Mikko Pykäri was willing to answer a few questions.

It’s the right time to check in on Regina as, with Sami Suova, Mikko is one half of the terrific Shine 2009 who, a couple of months ago, signed with Modular. The duo have also recorded as Cup. This leaves Regina on hold, but not actually defunct.

Regina’s music, Iisa Pykäri's vocals and the atmosphere of longing generated is enfolding and seductive. Melodies are yearning, almost hymnal. That they do this by merging the organic with the electronic makes them all the more special. For evidence: the wonderful "Unessa" (below).

In addition to Iisa and Mikko Pykäri, Regina’s remaining third is drummer Mikko Rissanen, who joined after their first album. To date, there are four Regina albums: Katso Maisemaa (2005); Oi Miten Suuria Voimia (2007); Puutarhatrilogia (2009); Soita Mulle (2011). They chart an increasing confidence: an assuredness climaxing on the classic – classic if it were from anywhere – Soita Mulle, where a folk-like melodic sensibility intertwines with the lightest of nods towards Technique New Order. A beautiful, emotive and subtle sound.

It seems absurd that a band who have charted in Finland have such a low profile outside their own country. The US label Friendly Fire did work with them, but that appears to have not caught light.

Mikko Pykäri says he's currently “waiting for the Shine 2009 album release later this year, and also finishing Iisa's solo album which I'm producing. Regina is slowly starting to write a new album but it's going to take a while.”

Whether Regina’s music is geography specific – could it have been created anywhere else? – is a question Mikko (quite reasonably) dodges. “It's difficult to say and to be honest I don't care if we sound Finnish or something else,” he says. “ Finland as a country has a certain meaning for us, sure, but that's nothing to do with the message we are delivering. For us being Finns [singing in Finnish] is not unusual. Iisa is careful about the lyrics and feels she can be more exact when writing in her native language. I think we've always been what we are. It's more interesting to think only about the direction you want to go and to not care about others.” Iisa Pykäri is also currently writing lyrics for HMC Music Publishing.

On the development of their sound, Mikko explains “We've tried to simplify our music and to concentrate on the key elements and leave everything else out.”

Shine 2009’s progress and the release of Iisa Pykäri’s solo album might mean Regina become overshadowed. Let’s hope not.

Also only on Kieron Tyler worlds of music:

Wednesday 9 October 2013


After buying the teeny-tiny first issue of the reconfigured NME today I was befuddled. So the obvious course was to share that befuddlement.

In case you don’t know – and you won't find out inside the issue itself, as there’s no editorial explaining the gleaming features intrinsic to its spanking newness – our last remaining weekly music mag has just undergone a makeover. They’re shy about saying so. How odd.

The only clues are some banners on the cover: “The new NME”; “more reviews”; “about (sweary symbols) time”; “The Past, Present & Future of Music”. Beyond those, nothing but a coy post-script on the letters page.

As it’s not saying so itself, this is what the new NME says it’s about: read it here.

The cover star for this brave new world? David Bowie.

Eccentrically located at the back of the paper (is anyone going to get that far after all the bite-sized, no-depth chunks on myriads of things?) is a series of pieces about Bowie. Setting Tony Visconti aside, it’s commentary. Some by venerable sorts: author Irvine Welsh, ex-Pixie Black Francis and Trent Reznor. LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy edges things towards today. As for St Vincent and the lovely Faris Badwan – OK. This is followed by reprints of pieces about Sid Vicious (hope the writers got paid for the reuse of their work). After that, a look at this week in 2003 – Kings of Leon. Plus ça change.

Elsewhere inside is a short (very and shamefully so) list-style article on Radiohead’s Kid A – readers can cope with more than 450 or so words and running copy, can’t they? There’s a piece on the forthcoming Muscle Shoals studio film, a list of records soundtracking Tinie Tempah’s life and a two-pager on The Killers in China which strangely plays down the flavour of China itself and could have been compiled from quotes given anywhere. Its most memorable elements are a whinge by a band member and Brandon Flowers’ uncommented on disconnectedness. Metronomy, Elbow, MIA and The Arctic Monkeys and a puff on Jazz Summers’ book get less-than-one-page treatments. The lead album review is Paul McCartney’s new one. Suede’s Brett Anderson is asked some questions inside the back page.

All the golden oldies make some sense as a positioning which plucks from the long line of comodified (non-)indie, after which a few other things are chucked in as leavening.

Much of this stuff isn't timely – which should be the key driver for a weekly publication. Timeliness.

The Arctic Monkeys are going to make another album. That's news? Blimey.

Although the bulk of the live reviews are of the well-known (Laura Marling, Manic Street Preachers, Katy B, Frank Turner) with balance from Drenge and Peace, the meat seems to be the collated and lightly copy assisted lists of new things, new tracks, new bands. Loads. Jungle are the top draw (imaginative name – at least they weren’t called Drum ‘n’ Bass). Directions are regularly given to listen at the NME website. Bringing traffic there is obviously keenly desired.

Whatever. Furthermore, a magazine is not a website and should not look like one, which this largely does. That’s that “dynamic, multi-use format” in action.

This issue is a fence-straddling, timid dog’s dinner.

Lets see what next week brings.

Sunday 6 October 2013


Review here: The Arts Desk Folkelarm 2013

Some more pictures.

Holmenkollen ski slope and Gamle Aker Church setting Oslo in context
Music of a different kind at the Norsk Folkemuseum
A plea not to destroy Finnmark at the Norsk Folkemuseum
Inside the Gol Church at the Norsk Folkemuseum
Guest quarters at the Norsk Folkemuseum
The Eventyrbroen (the fairy tale bridge)
Vesle Frikk with his fiddle on the Eventyrbroen