For years, the music of Sweden, Norway and Iceland has been enchanting American audiences. Whether it’s Sondre Lerche’s coy croon, Björk’s shape-shifting diva-ism or the heavy psychedelic rock of Düngen, apparently we can’t get enough of those Scandinavians. And who can blame us? There seems to be no shortage of good bands being spawned in these countries, and I even heard that there are more bands per capita in Iceland than any other country. This could be a myth, but couple that with their reputation for being well-read and you have a Utopia on your hands. Still, one country in the region that hasn’t quite seen as much attention as of yet (although Denmark also comes to mind, save for recent psych band Mew) is Finland, who has seen a sort of renaissance of late, groups like Mi and L’au, Islaja and Lau Nau creating beautiful and strange music that is at once stark, delicate and very unconventional. Another artist to add to that list is Kiila, a Finnish band that toes the line between lo-fi bedroom sampladelia and freak-folk.
Originally released in Europe in 2001, the group’s debut Heartcore was recorded when Kiila was only a duo, though they’ve since expanded. Here, however, the duo sounds, well, more or less like two guys making stuff at home on a 4-track. But I mean that in the most positive way. Heartcore is charmingly simple and stripped down, quirky and imperfect, but endearing all the same. And despite its lo-fi, playful nature, it’s a surprisingly diverse album, few songs actually sounding anything like one another.
“Contemporaries” alone splits into two halves, the first a hypnotic, fuzzy radio signal paired with a repeated guitar riff, and the second a pop structure with the repeated lyric, “the people who make up the world/are your contemporaries.” All the while, “Fireburnfoot” is a delightful instrumental romp into the playtime rumpus room. “Holy Melancholy” is pure tribal chanting and percussion, similar to recent offerings by Liars, though not as elaborate. “Verrbrantes Land” opens with a long squall of feedback, layering into dueling squeals, and the noise just builds from there. This pattern of no pattern continues throughout the record, no single unifying sound ever becoming a true signature. But part of this confusing mess is what makes the band so interesting. It’s a strange and unsettling this duo makes, but there’s a lot of depth and innovation deep down within that strange, unsettling sound.
Smog – Julius Caesar
Excepter – KA
Black Dice – Broken Ear Record
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.