Forwardman is Sakari Viittala. It sounds like the intro to a comic book film. Superman. Batman. Spiderman. Forwardman. I wonder if he has a motto? A comedian once joked that Oldham’s (where I live) is ‘Going Forward in Reverse’. That’s not far off the mark.
He is Finnish, although born in Sweden (Umeå) and has also lived in London where he worked pubs, restaurants, hotel lobbies and possibly Underground stations for a while before settling on an island that is part of Helsinki, Lauttasaari, and which by all accounts in mainly Swedish-speaking. You see, you learn something every day. I didn’t even know Helsinki had islands, never mind one that is a Swedish colony.
His (third) album, ‘The Brass Bandit Transaction’, which could be a Wallace & Gromit film, was released digitally in October last year, picking up around one streamed million plays already, and a vinyl version will appear on 4th March this. As we’re roughly half way between the two dates this is as good a time as any to feature him.
He chose the Forwardman moniker as a statement of attitude and because he felt it would work for both a solo artist and a band.
Forwardman classes his work as catchy ‘Power Pop’ that crosses several styles and on the 10-track album he employed a nine piece rock orchestra which included the ‘usual’ rock band instruments augmented by a four-piece brass section.
For ‘The Brass Bandit Transaction’ he gathered local musicians he had not previously met to ‘conduct’ them at a recording studio near Helsinki.
I’ll leave the rest to you to discover. He has possibly the most informative website I’ve ever seen.
I invited Sakari to suggest a representative track and he proposed ‘Deep Blue Dream’. Now that title attracts me for a variety of reasons. Deep Blue is the name of a famous shark and of the IBM computer which equally famously beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov, at the second time of asking. It’s the title of a song from Arcade Fire’s Grammy-winning ‘The Suburbs’ (and it is about that goddamn computer) while Deep Dream was the name of the Facebook-like social media platform that promised ‘absolute privacy’ to the user in the last Jason Bourne film and almost got its founder blown away by a CIA ‘Asset’.
What has any of this got to do with the song? Nothing. I’m just saying that it is an evocative title and I like to be evocated.
It’s a tantalising track in which his deep blue dream concerns good old planet Earth (Carl Sagan’s ‘Pale Blue Dot ‘) and an envisaged visitation by extra-terrestrials who come from space to “find the earth (an) abandoned place/They wonder why we built these streets/right before the quantum leap…”
The lyrics are short (three verses, each repeated once), and quite terse. You aren’t quite sure what is going on here. Why the world is “charging through the dark” and the people “losing the spark”. Perhaps it’s just a case of pandemic fatigue?
More importantly there is no suggestion as to what the quantum leap was (we’ve moved surreptitiously into the past tense). The same sort of leap as in 2001 – A Space Odyssey? From ape to man to superbeing?
There are more questions than answers. The video is clearer. It is evident that Sakari was once a busker. He’s got the mannerisms. What surprised me was an unexpected attitude. If Noel Gallagher had to cry off an Oasis gig because he’d fallen out with his brother again and Sakari stood in for him, you might not even know the difference (and he can play a mean guitar lick, too).
An artist to watch.
Ainoa Productions Oy will release ‘The Brass Bandit Transaction’ as a vinyl LP on March 4th 2022.
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