#17, NOVEMBER 2004



LAL LAL LAL is a label from Finland. I really like the name of the label because it's catchy and when I say it or type it out in a sentence it actually has an outright musical effect. The sentence "Lal Lal Lal is a label from Finland" has so many L's in it that if I say it out loud the sound of the words starts to stretch and blend like I'm talking while eating taffy, and when I type the words the repetition and rhythm is like playing a riff on a guitar.

I'm also naturally curious and interested in the idea of Finland period, because it's remote to me and I don't know too much about it. All I really know about Finland is some vague folklore about children and mittens and ice-skates or something, and I also know that segment in Jim Jarmusch's Night On Earth that was set in Helsinki. That segment kinda freaked me out, because it seemed like a harsh, cold, and bleak place to live. I couldn't believe that an entire city had been built in such a bleak place. So basically, I'm dealing with some pretty limited and stereotypical knowledge here.

Fortunately, the Lal Lal Lal label puts a whole new spin on Finland, because this music sounds like a celebration of nature and the outdoors. Some will say that it's got a hippie vibe, but I suspect that it's actually a freak vibe. Either way, it is definitely outdoorsy, even though they don't seem to record outdoors quite as much as, for example, their San Franciscan peers in (the) Jewelled Antler (collective). In fact, the roots of the label and most of the players seem to be rather urban, though not necessarily in Helsinki, but in Tampere and Turku, the next two largest cities in Finland. Maybe those are more outdoorsy towns, more wooded and hilly or something, on a large body of water that gives them a slightly maritime climate so that the winters aren't as brutal. Hmm, I'll have to get out the old Atlas . . . .

But first I should finish this article. That's right . . . ON TO THE RECORDS! Who are the artists and what do they sound like? Well, hmm, I've always been really good at deciphering things like 'artist name' and 'album title' on even the weirdest records, but it's extra hard when the records are not only weird to begin with, but the text is mostly written in the amazing language of Finnish. For example . . .

I think the name of this one is Rauhan Orkestem? Or Rauhan Orkesteni? Oh, okay, it's Rauhan Orkesteri, which might mean Rauhan Orchestra. It's a real nice-looking record, and hey, it's VINYL, so I was hoping for some blasting psych that was going to be super-rare in a few years, but this is actually straight-up free jazz. It's free jazz with CLARINET, no less. And trumpet, drums, and stand-up bass. So you've got a little bit of that free Klezmer thing going on with a fairly Colemanian approach. These guys are definitely good, active and kinetic while still being controlled and measured, but I can't help but think this is more appropriate to, say, 1964 than it is 2003. Right now, I'd rather hear some psychedelic saxophone like that Klondike & York LP. But, only 300 were made and the label's already out of 'em (and the record does make more sense once you get the FULL Lal Lal Lal picture, which I hadn't yet when I wrote the above because it was the first Lal Lal Lal release I listened to).

Okay, now that I've got the vinyl out of the way, here's a whole buncha CASSETTES, the second greatest format of all time!

THE ANAKSIMANDROS: Camels Running Through Life CS (LAL LAL LAL)
A really great title for a cassette, and this titling skill continues throughout the tape, as every track possesses a pleasantly skewed verbal head-scratcher: "the day i ate old bread" . . . "bubbles in my brain" . . . "when the wizard is near" . . . "standing on a pencil" . . . "the years i spent wandering between the molecules" . . . "digging for a beach on the beach" . . . "sun as a child" . . . "a brave frog (in a submarine)" . . . and so on, to name most of them. And the music lives up to the titles, with fully involved sawing, rhythmic tribal clatter, much like Avarus . . . hell, this probably IS Avarus, or at least 2/3 of the (x) members of Avarus, joined by the wife and second cousin, respectively, of the two Avarus members who aren't present . . . or maybe not. Personnel isn't that important right now, and it may never be. What's more important is that you should check out this tape, especially if you're looking for new 'free folk,' seriously. (I just learned that this out-of-print tape is being re-released by the great tUMULt label -- a good fit!)

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Kuolleena Haudattuja -- Sosiologinen kartoitus suma laisen nuorison salaisista musiiklei harrastuksista CS (LAL LAL LAL)
I shit you not: this one is every bit as good as its title. Maybe even better -- this might be the best release so far. Oh wow, I just figured out, after listening to the whole thing once, that it's actually a compilation! I thought Kuolleena Haudattuja was the name of a band and this was their album, but it's actually a bunch of different bands and that's the title of the comp. I don't know what all those other crazy words are -- I'm tellin' ya, Finnish is an amazing-looking language. (Turns out the whole thing means Buried Dead -- A Sociological Survey on Finnish Youth's Secret Musical Activities.) Anyway, I'm not gonna do a track-by-track description, but listening to this you'd swear that the 1971 lineup of Faust jumped into a time machine, stopped in Lowell, MA and picked up Emil Beaulieau, and then headed over to Finland so they could all jam with Avarus! In reality, the artists include Maniacs Dream, Kemialliset Ystävät, Viking of St. Loonie, Hot Patongs In Paris, Pettinkisestio, Arttu Partinen & His Partiers, Office Building, Pylon, Toni Laakso, Rad Conservative, Munuaissymposium 1960, Lullu, Roope Eronen, Mr. Onion, Garfields, Kukkiva Poliisi, Mausoleum, Tero Kartastenpää . . . . . . . . and more!

Maniacs Dream's side of the split 7-inch with Munuaissymposium 1960 (see review below) is crazy heavy-guitar free-rock splatter, but this is more slippy free-jazz goofy-vocal madness that sounds a little bit like all the bands on Lal Lal Lal at once. I especially like it when someone is playing what sounds like a Farfisa organ as fast as possible, so wrong that it's LEFT. Guitar or no, it's still all about the splatter, and some bad-ass drone-riff guitar playing does eventually come into the picture and start driving the jam along while percussion and bells fall down an endless theoretical spiral staircase. This is my favorite section of the tape, and one of my favorite sections in Lal Lal Lal history. Great drone-riffing! The liner notes say "All Songs Recorded in Turku by Bella Blossa, Hesedelic McBong, Fricara Pacchu, Lullu Pavarotti." Hmm, I'm not too familiar with the Finnish culture, but I think those are pseudonyms.

Okay, so Master QSH actually did record Side A of their self-titled tape outside. You can't necessarily tell during the bulk of the freak-prov splatter nuttiness, but there is a nice round of social-sounding applause at the end. Other than that, Side A isn't one of the most distinctive Lal Lal Lal jams, but Side B is totally essential, a long crazy and spacy percussion jam that sounds like Milford Graves and Edgard Varese sitting in with the Arkestra after all the horns have been packed up. I really like how rangy and all-over-the-place it is, and then I really like how LONG it is -- it just lays all the way out and keeps going!

And here's a compact disc very much from the Lal Lal Lal camp, released by the American label Last Visible Dog:

Not the Pylon from Athens, Georgia (insert Fred Schneider/Michael Stipe joke here). This Pylon is from Finland, another Lal Lal Lal/Avarus type side project that happens to be a duo. Accordingly, they're a more stripped-down band with much less of a splatter-prov orientation than the others. Track 1 (no titles) really throws the gauntlet down, sounding like a heavy yet tiny phaser-damaged duo between an overdriven organ and shambolic percussionist. This shambling and clanking percussion is a constant throughout all tracks, while the other half of the equation changes in subtle ways. For example, track 2 replaces the overbleeding organ with subdued 'oriental' string-work, while track 3 keeps the string-work but adds ghostly, drony, and probably overdubbed flute playing, which appears again on Track 4, minus the string-work. And so on -- atop the unchanging percussive bedrock, the surface slowly morphs. Track 6 gets really heavy with moaning vocals and grinding electronics, breaking you out of the trance, but never completely as the album winds on . . . .

Wait, this just in! More vinyl from Lal Lal Lal, in the form of FOUR brand new 7-inches . . . . .

Identifying the who and what of these four vinyl artifacts is a perfect summary of how hair-scrambling Lal Lal Lal can be. Where else to start but at the top, where we've got a record that has the words Lauhkeat Lampaat clearly screen-printed on the cover. Fair enough, that's probably the name of the group. Couple silk-splotched abstract ducks on the cover, or maybe they're swans. I can dig it. The label itself reveals, in xeroxed handwriting, that Lauhkeat Lampaat is a duo of A. Tolvi on bass recorder and J. Tolvi on percussion. Wow -- more free jazz? Yep, it is, but it's very Finnish free jazz, which plucks and ripples most admirably. If Don Cherry had been Finnish . . . . hell, he probably was! It also immediately reminds me of the acoustic gamelan-driven side of Sun City Girls, which I've been listening to a lot of lately. It reminds me of that so much that I bet this is the 7-inch that Byron Coley compared to acoustic Sun City Girls in the last Wire magazine -- in fact I'm gonna go check. [Leaves room, comes back seconds later with magazine.] No, never mind, he was reviewing the Gang Wizard/D Yellow Swans split 3" CD.
       Which brings us to Side B, which I had gone ahead and assumed was gonna be by Lauhkeat Lampaat, but then I got to thinking -- if it is Lauhkeat Lampaat, then why does it say Pohjoisten Kukkaisten Aanet on the label?? And why does the back cover have PDK silk-screened on it -- could that be some kind of abbreviation for Pohjoisten Kukkaisten Aanet? (You didn't think I could say it again, did you?) And if the first side was slippery no-beat free-jazz, why is the second side a stone conga groove that could be right off an Eddy Detroit album, complete with vocalise and wood-flute fluppery? (Oops, there I go with another Arizona/Majora comparison.) Hmm, I'm thinking it's two different bands, one called Lauhkeat Lampaat and one called Pohjoisten Kukkaisten Aanet (or possibly just Pohjoisten Kukkaisten, with Aanet being the name of the 'EP'). And by the way, I'd like to see some footage of a Finnish spelling bee -- I'll trade if anyone's got any on video . . . . . . .
        POSTSCRIPT!!! I just figured out that this is NOT a release on Lal Lal Lal, and that Pohjoisten Kukkaisten Äänet is the label, which means both sides are by Lauhkeat Lampaat. And it turns out that the Tolvi brothers are also in Rauhan Orkesteri. It's all coming together, right?

It doesn't get any easier with the next record on the pile . . . first of all, with THAT cover this could be a record by Laurie Anderson or Kim Wilde or something. Actually, it is easier with this record, because the back cover is as legible and cleanly designed as a 1950s jazz record, and right there at the top is the artist name, Toni Laakso. The only confusing part is that the first paragraph of the liner notes are in Finnish, the second is in English, and the third is in Spanish! What I'm putting together is that Laakso was a ninth-grader in high school who played drums in a NWOBHM cover band, and when his band-mates weren't around he recorded some crazy solo jams while the batteries for his tape-recorder were having some issues. This happened in 1990-1991, and the result is in fact "bracing" and "revelatory"! It sounds as true and sloppy and goofy as the Screamin' Mee-Mee's and sometimes even as noise-tarred as the Hair Police. Except that those bands actually play songs -- I'm not sure Toni Laakso ever does. A lot of Side 2 is a long raucous drum solo, with the tape speed slipping and sliding all over the place, which it does throughout the entire 7-inch, actually. It's pretty great.

The next record is another one which I slowly started to realize was probably a split release. The record itself had one label that said Maniacs Dream, and I already know them from their cassette. That I can handle, but on the other side the label just has a picture of a bear-man / werewolf shooting a squiggly ink line out of his fingers. Then I noticed that on the insert there was some business like Munuaissymposium 1960, given first billing above Maniacs Dream. Then I referred back to the bear-man/werewolf, and sure enough, that squiggle he was shooting out of his fingers reads . . . Munuaissymposium 1960. I listened to their side first, but that was this morning and I already completely forgot what it sounded like. Let me get reacquainted. [Takes record out of sleeve, walks over to turntable, takes Toni Laakso record off with one hand and puts Munuaissymposium 1960 record on with the other, resleeves Toni Laakso record and walks back to computer to resume review.] . . . . . . . . Oh yeah, now I remember, more strange-strings-and-flute-and-etc. free jazz slip, this time a little heavier on the SCRAPE, but wait, what about this ridiculous vocalizing . . . is that guy meowing?? Omigod, have I referenced Contact High With The Godz yet on this page??? Because this would be the perfect place to do it. Totally out of hand.
     So on Side B we have more Maniacs Dream. Wow, this time they've got guitars! A lot of 'em! I knew there was gonna be some guitars somewhere on these releases . . . . and my, aren't they noisy, just wiping six-string madness all over that sloppy tribal drumbeat . . . . sounds like early-to-mid Dead C!

THE DEMARS: Veriläiskiä 7-inch (LAL LAL LAL)
This is probably the least confusing record of the bunch . . . and the hardest rocking! It's an EP by just one single band (whew!) and they even have an easy name to pronounce: The Demars! On the back we have "The Story of the Demars," which is a pretty good story, in that the singer was only eight years old when they started recording in 1994! By 1997, when they apparently called it quits, they had created "over 450 songs spread onto 13 cassettes"! And here are 12 of those songs, on two sides, which makes this kind of like the Pick Your King of 1990s Finland weirdcore! It sounds like a trio: the singer, joined by a guitarist who's pretty good at whipping out the superfast post-Flag chord progressions, and I swear an early example of the "finger drummer," i.e., a guy who plays an electronic drum machine pad with his fingers through a loud amp, like the guy in Football Rabbit, or the role Andrew W.K. once briefly played in Wolf Eyes. (Nate Young: "It sounds funny, but he was one of the best finger drummers I've ever seen.") Another blast of a 7-inch, joining Toni Laakso in the "kids in the 1990s recording noise-punk at home" category of Lal Lal Lal, as opposed to the "freaks in the 2000s recording freak folk jazz noise improv" category that most of the label falls into.

So there ya have it -- I really think I can recommend every single one of these releases equally, as the Lal Lal Lal camp seems to have tapped into some sort of universal source of music and every one of these records draws deeply from it. And some of them are even still available from the label! Go check it out at:


Also check these links for more Finland info:

(Oh, and about Tampere, it doesn't seem to be the outdoorsy, temperate city I thought it might be. While Turku and Helsinki are in fact both coastal cities, Tampere is further inland and was described as having a "post-industrial urban landscape" by Matt Wuetrhich in The Wire, in a good one-page article on this Finland scene in the aforementioned issue, Fennesz on the cover.)

Lal Lal Lal CEO Roope Eronen writes in:

"Here's some comments regarding the facts:

-NWOBHM was the name of an imaginary football team. toni drew obsessively players for that team. everyone of them had the same number (was that 666?)
-maybe some other label than tumult will do the reissue of the anaksimandros tape. but tumult will soon reissue some avarus stuff. personnel in the anaksimandros is almost the same as in avarus. the anaksimandros have excisted longer.
-Hesedelic McBong's name derives from the fast food companies McDonalds and Hesburger (="Hese"). Hesburger is a large company form Turku and I guess it's as popular as McDonalds.
-MasterQsh's side A is played for people (lots of children) waiting to get in a movie during the midnight sun festival in lappland. master qsh is a person from the band who had a cymbal on his head and he was laughing all the time and played that cymbal occasionally. the band has the same line up as rauhan orkesteri. on side b there's more people.
-All pylon stuff are kind of overdubbing. because there are just two of us, we had to first record a tape and then play more while it was playing. so then there's 4 persons.
-The Demars means the social democrats (="demarit" => "the demars")
-Tampere is very outdoorsy place! lots of forests, even near the centrum. and tens of lakes! green and fresh city. my fave."

Right on! Thanks Roope!