Erika Sirola (Finland) – There was a boy (single/track from forthcoming EP)
Erika Sirola is Finnish-Canadian but we’ll give her the benefit of any doubt here and call her Finnish.
She’s a ‘multi-hyphenate’ too. We used to call them Jack/Jill of All Trades, or simply ‘singer/dancer/actress/model’ (usually pronounced mo-dew in faut Estuary English) but the latest reincarnation of the phrase has a bit more class to it.
She certainly has a classy background, having begun songwriting at eight, getting a record deal at 13 and thereafter signing with Sony.
How many folk have we had in here that had similar stories to tell but who have since vanished off the face of the earth? She is to be applauded just for surviving the business.
She has trawled her way across styles and genres as well, encompassing along the way electronic, ambient, folk, jazz and IDM.
This, ‘There Was a Boy’, is her first independent song release, on her own label, The Gate was Open, after working for those major ones. On the website landing page it’s closed, and padlocked by the look of it but Erika tells me that “the point of the gate being closed is the fact that despite how it may seem, you can still open it anyway as long as you give it a try – a valuable metaphor for this illusive industry!”
I’ll admit straight away that I can’t pin down her style here exactly but then as a ‘multi-hyphenate’ it may well be that she can’t either.
What I can say is that it is experimentally electronic, slightly ‘ethereal’ in places (I don’t care much for that arty-farty word but it will do), a little more dark and eerie too, and contains numerous atmospheric, keyboard generated melodies.
Apparently she was inspired by Nat King Cole’s ‘Nature Boy’ and her song is the converse of Cole’s confident belief in his singularity, being representative of attempts at establishing self recognition, of accepting who we really are behind all the different masks that we are asked to wear.
Hence the blunt electronics interventions, which suggest ‘wake up calls’.
It’s all interesting stuff. Often such deep thinkers can’t get their complex ideas across without boring the pants off you, but Erik makes a pretty good fist of it. (The song, not the boring!)
‘There Was a Boy’ is out now. The EP (title unknown) drops on March 8th.
Find her on:
(She appears to have a Facebook page too, but as it says in the Intro section ‘Never on Facebook’, perhaps it is best to avoid it!)
Alterne (Denmark) – Alle terner (single/future album track)
Alterne is a bit more down to earth than Erika. The trio was formed by the Danish singer Ida Marie Jessen and also counts the Belgian violinist Oscar Beerten and the Estonian accordionist Maimu Jõgeda, who are well known names from the Nordic Folk Music scene.
They met through their studies at Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. Since then they have developed a unique musical portrait that fuses elements from folk, pop and ambient into what they call ‘dream folk’, which is new to me and a style worth checking out.
Speaking of checking, it did occur to me that they took their name from the song, which translates into English (by way of Mr Google so I can’t be sure of this) as ‘All checkers’, which doesn’t seem to mean much. Perhaps it’s ‘checkmate’ into Danish?
They say it is a tribute to all the important people who have crossed your path, so yes, I suppose it means they are ‘checking off’ those people. And I don’t think it means billionaires and ‘celebritees’, rather those folk who have quietly made an important contribution to your life and wellbeing without being recognised for it.
They elaborate further by pointing to the people, mainly young ones, who leave small communities to seek higher education or jobs in big cities, leaving a void in those towns and villages, the disenchanted friends that are left behind becoming nothing but vague memories and vice versa.
A subject that was tackled in Arcade Fire’s Grammy-winning album ‘The Suburbs’ if I remember correctly. (“My old friends, I can remember when/You cut your hair, I never saw you again/Now the cities we live in could be distant stars/And I searched for you in every passing car”).
But I digress. The best way I can describe this song is to ask you to imagine an atmospheric alt-folk version of the opening sequence to ‘Tubular Bells’ (the bit from The Exorcist) which is then hijacked by Fairport Convention playing solely traditional instruments and with Sandy Denny in full flow.
There, that wasn’t difficult, was it?
‘Alle terner’ is the first single from their forthcoming debut album, which will be released on April 19th, 2024 both digitally and physically (CD), through the label GO’ Danish Folk Music. The album release will be celebrated with concerts in Denmark, Germany and Belgium in April and May, 2024.
Find them on: