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.
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.
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
. . . .
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 . . .
ORKESTERI LP (LAL
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).
now that I've got the vinyl out of the way, here's a whole
buncha CASSETTES, the second greatest format of all time!
ANAKSIMANDROS: Camels Running Through Life CS (LAL
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!)
ARTISTS: Kuolleena Haudattuja -- Sosiologinen kartoitus suma
laisen nuorison salaisista musiiklei harrastuksista CS (LAL
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!
DREAM CS (LAL LAL
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.
QSH CS (LAL LAL LAL)
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!
here's a compact disc very much from the Lal Lal Lal camp,
released by the American label Last Visible Dog:
Not Cobras CD (LAST VISIBLE DOG)
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 . . . .
this just in! More vinyl from Lal Lal Lal, in the form of
FOUR brand new 7-inches . . . . .
LAMPAAT 7-inch (POHJOISTEN KUKKAISTEN ÄÄNET)
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"
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 . . . . . . .
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?
LAAKSO 7-inch (LAL
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
1960/MANIACS DREAM 7-inch (LAL
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!
DEMARS: Veriläiskiä 7-inch (LAL
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.
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:
these links for more Finland info:
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:
some comments regarding the facts:
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
-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
-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
-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."
on! Thanks Roope!