Festival Preview | Flow Festival, Helsinki
– 6 Finnish bands not-to-miss –
by trevor elkin
Mixing eclectic popular culture with under-the-radar acts and experimental art, Flow Festival is truly a unique experience. Based for over 10 years in Helsinki (this year joined by a sister event in Ljubljana) Flow has become one of Europe’s best boutique festivals. It’s all about the small details. Even the festival site, a disused power plant, is planned and designed to create an eco-friendly, immersive atmosphere with intriguing performance spaces and great food from all over the world. Some of the big music names playing this year include Florence and The Machine, Belle And Sebastian, Future Islands, Beck, Roisin Murphy, Ride, War On Drugs, among others doing the European Festival circuit.
Why go all the way to Finland and only see those guys when there are some really exciting local acts on the programme. Like the Finns in general (or so it’s said) they could take a bit of effort to get to know, but it’s worth it. With less than a week to go, to save you some time we’ve listened to hours of tracks (yes, literally) and picked out some fine Finnish highlights…
Cats of Transnistria
A ‘slow & deep duo’ who spin together dark, disintegrating guitar soundscapes and sleepy female vocal melodies. Fans of lo fi bedroom pop, Best Coast and Galaxie 500 will love this.
This is classic indie pop with new wave leanings. Reviewers compare them to The Cure, Joy Division, Interpol etc, etc. You know the kind of vibe. What we like here though, is their somewhat sunnier energy – in the common parlance, they’re ‘radiators not drains’. French Films have been around a while but are a favourite, like fellow contemporaries Big Wave Riders.
Have You Ever Seen The Jane Fonda Aerobic VHS?
And the prize for the best band name on the billing goes to….. HYESTJFVHS apparently are ‘hard as nails and have Finland’s loudest drummer’. Whatever, notably they create their madness without a single guitar. This odd sounding mix of casiotone do-wap and garage rock really works, hurtling along like a 60s Californian dune buggy driven by costumed characters in shades. Love it.
If you’re not already familiar with Mirel Wagner, now is the time to become acquainted in her home town. She is a master weaver of atypical, heartbreaking folk tales and her performances are utterly captivating. She holds herself with a vulnerable, gothic lament, as if she is singing warnings to the foolish and the young. The latest album, disturbingly titled ‘When The Cellar Children See The Light of Day’ sent deathly echoes ringing around the folk world and ultimately earned her the 2014 Nordic Music prize.
The most hyped act on this list (in Finland at least), it is probably also the most surprising to find here for a couple of reasons. First, it’s rap. While being fairly indifferent to the genre, there is actually something about Finnish that makes it a fascinating, maybe also a little scary medium for rap. Paperi T’s precise and multi-syllabic patterns will conjure up some incomprehensible, demonic rhythms and a hypnotic flow you want to succumb to. A quick spin on google translate reveals his lyrics as cerebral lines about ordinary, everyday events, somehow referencing Henry Miller, Hendricks, Stevie Nicks and Finnish philosophers in the process. Even if rap isn’t your thing, you can appreciate the pace and passion on his album Malarian Pelko (Fear of Malaria), which uses a more electroclash based music score, adding some bitterness to its flavour. See the unsettling anti-gangsta video for ‘Elokuva’ (‘Movie’) below.
A decade ago Regina had the only Finnish hit indie pop album that mattered, Katso maisemaa (‘See The Landscape’). Had they sung in English, one wonders, they may have given us a cool alternative to The Cardigans. At times Regina sound a bit like a J-Pop act, with twinkly synths, brassy bass lines and coy but business-like vocals. They have some subversive beats and melodies a la The Knife going on too, to keep things interesting. This FLOW appearance is their only gig this year, so if acclaimed Finnish electro pop is your thing, show up a bit earlier at the main stage on Saturday, they’re on before Belle & Sebastian.
Finally, if you tire of the well-beaten artistic path and fancy a little left-field pleasure, you might care to drop by ’The Other Sound’ tent on Friday. Among the avant-garde offerings on this stage is defunensemble. If you ever wondered what plays on Beelzebub’s radio while he’s relaxing in the bath, defunensemble will enlighten you. Their demonic chamber music picks up where Penderecki left off, throwing in death metal guitar feedback for good measure. Has to be seen, but nurofen is advisable: http://www.defunensemble.fi/
Flow Festival, Helsinki runs from Friday to Sunday, August 14th to 16th, 2015.
Weekend passes are still available at time of writing.