Islaja Palaa Aurinkoon

[Fonal; 2005]

Rating: 5/5

Styles: spooky, ethereal psychedelia
Others: Fursaxa, Excepter, Avarus

In order to market artists on a mass scale, the music industry must impose dubious categorizations on music, pigeonholing in the name of convenience. It's marketing over music. Could the Minutemen accurately be described as "hardcore" or "punk rock?" And what was "anti-folk" really, people? Why didn't they just call it "shit folk" or "The Insane Clown Posse with acoustic guitars?" Now comes this whole "New Weird America" thing? Hasn't a similar type of spontaneous music been going on since the beginning of time? Even in the sphere of recorded music, we had the ESP-Disk people in the late '60s and early-'70s and strange folks like Ya Ho Wha and Nihilist Spasm Band sprouting up outside of the loop. Wouldn't that make it just plain "Weird America?" The scene is also not just limited to North America. There is a huge experimental buddy scene in Finland and Berlin, for instance.

With all of the different scenes and sounds in this experimental music scene, it is good to have a unifying faction, and Finland's Islaja is just that. Islaja blends everything from peers Avarus' penchant for using toy instruments to Jandek's sparse/disjointed guitar to Fursaxa's ethereal female vocal stylings into a wholly original sound that is both haunting and utterly beautiful. Palaa Aurinkoon is the band's second release and one of the foremost documents of the budding Finnish experimental music scene. Virtually no track on the 11-song collection sounds like another in form or style, but the album works as a whole. The British folk clang of "Uni Pöllönä Olemisesta," with its dual, meandering vocal layers, leads into the dreary, piano-led space chantey "Palaa Aurinkoon," all the while never sounding chopping or sacrificing the pace of the album. The band even manages to sneak the gothic "Senjun Tanssitaan" into the mix.

One of the most striking things about Palaa Aurinkoon is band leader Merja's vocals. Merja's voice acts as the perfect compliment to the sparse instrumentation, lending melodies that tug the listener along without getting lost in their minimalist approach. For example, the repetition of a rough-hewn guitar sound on the song "Rohkaisulaulu" sounds like a Jandek reinterpretation of classic Spanish guitar, but as soon as Mejara's voice chimes in, the guitar takes on the duty of a percussion instrument to Mejara's whispery piping. Everything about Palaa Aurinkoon is beautifully strange, from the Finnish vocals to the sparse and inventive instrumentation. It is, however, highly accessible and -- to quote another scene unifier, Ed from Eclipse Records -- highly recommended.

1. Laivat saapuu
2. Rohkaisulaulu
3. Uni pöllönä olemisesta
4. Palaa aurinkoon
5. Haaveilija
6. Senkun tanssitaan
7. Sateen tullessa
8. Rukki
9. Tule puutarhaan
10. Vaeltajan laulu
11. Rukous

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