Looks Like Rein, Deer

If I went out onto the street and asked the first person I came across how many famous Finnish musicians they could name, I could probably count the answers on the fingers of a clenched fist. Depending on which street, maybe literally. Anyway, the point is, there just isn’t many. Ask an informed muso and you might be stretching them: I came up with Jean Sibelius and Apocalyptica, who specialise in cello versions of Metallica songs. Ask Wikipedia and you’ll get a handful of extreme metal musicians, the lead singer of Nightwish and, um, the Rasmus. I think I came up with the vaguely more credible options there…

Still, as the young gentleman behinf the red door from last night’s The IT Crowd could probably tell you, one tends to associate Finnish music with the rock, if one associates it with anything. I was still under the impression that Finland’s primary export was racing drivers, maybe I’m not in a position to comment.

It looks a nice enough place though, once you start paying attention: there’s not a lot there by all accounts (possibly attractions akin to St Jonathan’s Stump and The Magic Road, I may be wrong), but it looks pretty beautiful. I’ve been reliably informed that while not a Scandinavian country Finland is, along with Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and possibly Greenland, a Nordic country. Ask someone from that area, they get quite pedantic about these things. It has Lapland though, and we all know who comes from Lapland, don’t we? Yes! Lapps!
So one gets the image of frozen wastes, midnight sun (at the northernmost point of the country, the sun doesn’t set for 73 days in summer, or rise for 51 days in winter), of pine trees covered in snow, of Eskimos digging out the innards of reindeer in order to sleep inside them. At least, I do. But then you find that there’s all sorts of modern technology and the like, and some good food (although not according to comedy world leader Silvio Berlusconi, he of vows of abstinence and politically-charged love songs).

I appear to have digressed wildly from the point I was trying to make. FatCat have the new album out soon from Finnish maestro Mauri Heikinnen, a.k.a. Drowsy – his new record, Snow On Moss On Stone, is out in March.

It was pointed out recently that the first line of the Arctic Monkeys album is “anticipation has the habit to set you up for disappointment,” and without wishing to be facetious (who am I kidding?), it’s fairly appropriate. The first line of ‘Bakery’, track one on Snow On Moss On Stone is “imagination is the mother of bread.” Who am I to say what on earth he’s blethering about, but whatever, it’s ace. Actually, ‘Bakery’ is a pretty unrepresentative song actually, all enthusiastically battered acoustic guitar and raucous vocals – if you want to hear what the record’s really like, try today’s featured mp3, ‘Words Of Warmth’. There’s Sufjan Stevens in there with his half-whispered, half-crooned vocals; the sparse, almost stark accompaniment. If you want to imagine what you’d like Finland to be like set to music, then Drowsy’s a decent enough place to start – it certainly fits the, let’s say, bracing mornings we’ve had here over the last week or two. No rain, everything just sits very still to avoid freezing, it seems like even the air hangs heavy, and that’s what Drowsy does aurally, in much the same way as Stevens evoked Michigan’s chilly beauty on the album of that name.

The album draws to a close with the wonderfully-named ‘Plangent Suite’, as stark as anything on here. And yet, as the album progresses, although you can almost feel the need for a furry hood, there’s a real human warmth that keeps it on the right side of beautiful. Job’s a good’un.


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