Friday, August 26, 2005

beta crawls, grows finns

While Wednesday night found me in the company of my friends (you know who you are), my first morning of a new decade found me talking to Ralph on the white telephone, not the way to kick off the roaring thirties. When I felt slightly less queasy, I venture out to Greenpoint to see the first show from a good deal of the Finnish folk contingency. All the big names are here in the states: Lau Nau, Kuupuu, Pekko Kappi, you know, them. A good reference is this article by Brandon Stosuy, who was also in attendance. All the noise dudes are there (natch), the beard exchange between the Finns and No-Neck and Double Leopards involves lots of mutually-admired product swapping hands.

I catch just the end of Lau Nau's performance. She is five months pregnant, and already loosing sublime lullabies for her belly on her little keyboard as Pekko Kappi, himself a student of Finnish folk forms, accompanies on his hand-built jouhikko. Pekko's set feels the most traditional, as it is just him and jouhikko unadorned by effects pedals and random objects, playing songs that he says are sometimes spells. One is to make a house catch on fire, which isn't too hard to do in Tommy's packed, stuffy backroom.

Afterwards, Laura informs me that the piece she performed at the end is not her own, but a song from Don Cherry's soundtrack to Alejandro Jodorowsky's Holy Mountain. Cherry is an important forbearer to consider, in that he combined isolated folk music idioms with (not necessarily jazz) improvisation to create a handmade music that could be playful, spiritual, all-encompassing, ascendant, drony, childlike, melodic, percussive, folk-based, non-denominational, open-ended. His was a template that could draw from Africa, India, Nepal, Turkey, as well as in Scandinavia, and render such musical distinctions moot in the personal space. Even his artwork resonates with this music, as the cover of Organic Music Society gets evoked on the little handmade CD I buy of Taikuri Tali (which is Laura and someone else whose name I forget and probably can't spell anyway).

Kuupuu is another solo female performer, and she is quite deliberate in how she accrues her sounds, time-lagging tiny patterns from flute, prayer bowl, melodica, tamborine, thumb piano, bird whistles, and sampling keyboard until the dizzying loops swirl around the room.

Tomutonttu is the solo project of Jan Anderzen, who is the main guy of the big Finnish noise collective, Kemialliset Ystavat (consider them the Sun City Girls, NNCK, Sunburned Hand of the Man of the country, I guess). He has people in the front row grab two cassettes at random, which he then meshes together on the fly, shooting them through a chain of pedals, creating hypnotic whorls out of tapes that could be culled from Finnish talk shows or something. They sound voice-based at the very least, and he shoves a microphone close to his lips as he hunches over the pedals, looping and distending gurgles and chatter. Michael from Double Leopards joins in at the end, the two hissing and humming, covering their mouths with cupped mics as they utter in fear of catching germs. The best part though is when a drunken Greenpoint denizen stumbles into the befuddling vortex, and starts yelling for her drinking buddy: "EVELYN!" she shouts into the din, again and again: "EVELYN!" It compliments what Anderzen does, a randomness that even he could never contrive.


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