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Musta Valo (Finland) Valtakatu (album – 2x sample tracks)

It’s a funny old business, public relations. We usually receive press releases from PR companies or other artist representatives and by and large they are very professionally put together.

Increasingly we are receiving submissions directly from the artist/band. They are typically, well let’s say not so impressive – how many artists don’t know what to say about themselves? – but occasionally there is a little gem in the pile.

One of those came from Musta Valo (Black Light), a Finnish band originally from the coast and who are promoting their just released fifth full-length album, ‘Valtakatu’, which translates loosely as ‘Main Street’ but they aren’t exiled on it.

It’s impressively produced and with a neat little digital booklet.

They describe themselves as “overly dramatic” (that’s a new one), drawing influences from post punk, indie pop, trip hop and even experimental music while their lyrics explore loneliness, love, gender and hope. Visuals are an integral part of their concept.

And it seems they do stray into other artistic media, a Finnish broadcasting channel, YLE, having released a TV series, A Strange Summer (Outo kesä), its plot based partially on their lyrics and they provided the musical score for it. Not only that, the series was directed and written by their singer-songwriter Lauri-Matti Parppei. Who knows, it might turn up on the Saturday evening Nordic slot on BBC4 (there was a Finnish ‘noir’ series last year but it was dreadful) or on Walter Presents on Channel 4. You read it here first.

Ok, enough of the background already, what about the tunes?

I’ve recently got into the habit of doing a couple of sample tracks from albums and I’ll continue in that vein here by bookending it – the first and last tracks.

Unfortunately, all the tracks are lyrically Finnish, which I consider to be the hardest language in the world along with Latin and Sanskrit, so I can only make generalisations.

(There are notes to the songs in the booklet but they have been written – deliberately, I’m sure – in an arcane manner that makes about as much sense as Lorem ipsum).

The opener is ‘Magnoliat’ (‘Magnolias’, hm, that translation wasn’t too difficult) and there is a video for it. They describe it as a ‘pop tune.’ Now, after listening to Finland’s Eurovision entry for this year (and previous ones for that matter) it’s clear that musical style interpretations can be quite different. They also refer to themselves holistically as ‘post-pop’ and the artistic pop-art connection is evident here both musically and in the video.

It’s all rather intense, with an underlying piano melody not dissimilar to the guitar riff in Thunderclap Newman’s ‘Something in the Air’, if there are any readers old enough to remember that classic.

Tension builds throughout, only to be relieved and then to start again, and never fully to be resolved.

The video is replete with imagery, none of which I understand, especially the collapsing bubble gum bubble but it is undoubtedly thought provoking. And the thought I can’t get away from is that purple lipstick just doesn’t go with a red headscarf.

The final track, the improvised, seven-minute piece, ‘Valtakadulla istuin penkille ja itkin’ (‘On the main street I sat on a bench and wept’) is a different kettle of fish. The title alone is so abstract it could be the product of Camus, or Sartre, or Schopenhauer.

There’s a similarly all-pervasive guitar melody underpinning it and which keeps coming around at an elevated volume like an errant rondo. Then about halfway through it takes off into a full blown anthem with an insistent guitar riff that sounds like a siren on the Lorelei rocks before it settles down into, and plays out with, a chilled out and slightly proggy section.

It’s mightily impressive and I’d enjoy seeing it played live.

These two tracks sandwich a variety of others that are inter alia ‘post rock’, breakbeat-y, and experimental and which deal with subjects as topical as how the noise of ships’ motors disturbs the communication of whales. You don’t often hear that. The subject I mean, not the motors.

Musta Valo are:

Lauri-Matti Parppei — vocals + guitar

Timo Kuismanen — guitar

Tuuli Kristola — drums

Iiro Liesmäki — keyboards

Ilari Pulli — bass

Find them on:




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