Finland – the mysterious, quiet sibling in the rich tradition of modern Northern European music. While its neighbors are easy to pin down at least perfunctorily – Iceland, producing folksy, ethereal artists like Björk and Sigur Ros, Norway and Sweden’s long-standing reputation in black-metal and death metal respectively – people seem to be much less familiar with Finland in general. Probably for the best, as this allows us to take a look at the experimental artists on their terms without the burden of existing prejudices.
Here, we’ve let several artists from Finland’s alternative music scene speak for themselves. While a good few of them are either defunct or on hiatus, they collectively provide us with a rich palette of stylistic backgrounds and instrumental diversity – strings, sax and piano in particular are especially prevalent here. In this list, we find a healthy representation of just about every genre our staff members are into: from post-rock to jazz fusion, ambient, shoegaze, prog and just about everything in between.
Expand your northern horizons with the artists on this list, and as always: If you feel we missed anyone, let us know!
This band sounds so much bigger than just three people. VIRTA utilize a skillful mix of reverb/delay and long, drawn-out horn sections to create a wall of sound, akin to something Jakob might put out if they traded their fuzz and wah for a trumpet.
And they sound so damn stylish doing it. 2016’s HURMOS made our year-end list, and for good reason: Their sound is melodically simple yet oozing with bombast, the rhythm section providing a sturdy backbone for trumpetist Antti Hevosmaa to anchor himself to while he rappels further and further down the rabbit hole.
TAGS: Jazz rock, Jazz fusion, Experimental, Post-rock, Ambient
MORE INFO: Website || Bandcamp || Spotify || Facebook || Instagram || YouTube
Formed in Pori and active between 2000 and 2012, Magyar Posse was a remarkable six-piece band comprised of two guitarists, two keyboard players, a drummer and a sound engineer.
Their 2004 album, Kings of Time, could be the perfect soundtrack for any brooding post-apocalyptic movie – no wonder as some of their cited influences came from the world of cinema: directors like David Lynch and Roman Polanski, and composers like Ennio Morricone and John Barry among others. There was a change of direction in the 2006 album Random Avenger with more melodic passages, less focus on droning guitars and more of a prog touch. Yet, what has defined Magyar Posse since the early days remained the same: a dark, heavy, and unsettling sound.
After 3 albums and touring in Europe, Russia and China, the band announced their split-up in 2012 “due to the lack of passion and motivation.”
TAGS: Post-rock, Experimental, Progressive rock
MORE INFO: Soundcloud || Facebook
Veljen Valas is a Finnish trio that is hard to dig up information on, but their self-description would be a revealing one for first-time listeners: a band that “combines the spontaneity of improvised music and expressionistic dimensions of the Nordic melodies and harmonies to the ethnic colours and rhythms.”
They have two albums, Self-titled (2004) and Puita, Sanajalkoja Ja Kanervaa (2008), both full of gorgeous ambiences merged with progressive elements. The saxophone lines are always at the forefront and easily capture the listener’s imagination. The drumming, particularly the use of the cymbals, adds greatly to the organic feel of their sound. Guitars are usually downtuned and subtle, but weave perfectly into the fabric of each song.
On the whole, Veljeni Valas is a must hear for any jazz or jazz fusion listener. For others, in and of itself the song “Tanssit Aamunkoitteessa” is reason enough to give this band a try.
A five-piece built around drummer/composer Olavi Louhivuori, boasting the impressive ability to integrate a veritable arsenal of different influences into something that sounds like a tradition passed down for generations. One of the biggest things setting them apart from most modern instrumental rock bands is the lack of any especially prevalent instrument effects, something balanced out by the frequent (yet consistently modest) use of electronics.
Among other things, this is a wonderful mix of jazz, ambient and classical music, with emphasis on textural ambience for large stretches – although Oddarang certainly know how to bring it home in others. The horns and anthems of a couple of the tracks on their latest effort, Agartha, lend the music a rustic feel which stands in sharp contrast to the fiddly, “Stranger Things”-esque synths spread throughout the rest of the album. While Oddarrang are far too eclectic to be fully shoehorned into the post-rock scene (their 2013 album In Cinema won European Jazz Album of the Year), quite a few in the scene could take a page or two out of their book.
TAGS: Ambient, Jazz, Jazz fusion, Post-rock, Cinematic
MORE INFO: Website || Bandcamp || Spotify || YouTube || Facebook || Instagram
Out of Tampere, Locomotora play a grand style of post-rock with ambient and neoclassical sensibilities, and are still a largely underrated band in the genre. Their 2009 debut album was marked by guitar-heavy, soulful compositions – the majestic opening track, “Shopping Music For Bloody Wallets,” a good case in point. The quintet released their sophomore album This Very Holding Back in 2013, which was at least as dense and atmospheric as the debut, and fared much better in terms of production quality. With the incorporation of string sections in some of their songs, their music is at certain points reminiscent of Mono and Yndi Halda. Highly recommended.
Despite a strong web presence, there’s not much information about Handling Noise. They are at least a three-piece, they are from Helsinki, they formed in 2007 and released a self-titled debut album in 2012. That debut album rightly received excellent reviews, it looks like they played some shows, and the last evidence they still exist is a re-tweet from April 2015 on the band’s Twitter account.
Listening to Handling Noise we can’t help but crave more music from the group. Their sound is experimental post-rock, layered with found sound as well as electronic textures and atmospheres to accompany drums, bass, guitar and vocals. There’s an underlying shoegaze vibe throughout the album provided by the vocal delivery and many of the guitar effects. It’s lush, dreamy and evocative. The art, presentation, production, and songwriting are all so convincing we can see why it took five years to make, and perhaps why there’s been nothing since.
Handling Noise don’t deserve to languish in obscurity. Hopefully they read this and consider catching us up to date.
TAGS: Post-rock, Shoegaze, Experimental, Space rock
MORE INFO: Bandcamp || Soundcloud || Spotify || Facebook || Twitter
BETRAYAL AT BESPIN
A seven-piece gem that too few have heard about. Innovative in the truest sense of the word, Betrayal at Bespin take prog as the starting point, but do incredibly well in adding a variety of elements, from echoes of their Nordic roots to jazz rock and post-rock. The output is splendid.
Betrayal at Bespin manage to stand out from the prog pack not only by the diverse influences they bring to the table, but also by an immense richness of instruments: tenor sax, violin, cello, piano, bass clarinet to name some. We would highly suggest not to confine yourself to the video showcased below, regardless of if you like it or not, and visit their latest album Rains. It is a masterwork of complex arrangements that are easily absorbed, with each track having its own distinct identity.
Given their recent silence, all we’ve got to do for now is to hope that we do not have to wait more for the next album.
TAGS: Progressive rock, Art rock, Jazz fusion, Cinematic, Post-rock
MORE INFO: Website || Bandcamp || Spotify || Facebook
Hailing from the city of Jyväskylä, Baulta is an instrumental post-rock band putting out impressive releases in a consistent manner since their formation in 2008. With intriguing tempo twists and turns and an intelligent composition, the band always manages to keep the listener on their toes. Their sophomore album That’s My House You’re Living In is a prime example of how they effortlessly combine a wide variety of sounds, from quiet moments to explosive ones.
TAGS: Post-rock, Progressive rock
MORE INFO: Bandcamp || Soundcloud || Spotify || Facebook || Instagram
Blending influences from post-rock, shoegaze and indie rock, Helsinki-band Blind Architects’ music speaks directly to your soul. Filled with soothing and floaty guitar tones and Olli Tainio’s soft vocals, it’s the perfect sunset driving music.
Rendezvous Park is a four-piece band from Helsinki having released two albums, but they have been inactive now for some time. Their music possesses a heavy cinematic approach to songwriting, the piano taking the lead on the majority of songs and making way for waves of bright atmospheres. With its uplifting and catchy beat, the song “Closer to Being Here” is a good starting point to get into the band.
TAGS: Post-rock, Shoegaze, Cinematic, Piano
MORE INFO: Website || Bandcamp || Soundcloud || Spotify || Facebook
“Mind Is A Beautiful Place”. “Homesick For A Place I’ve Never Been”. “Hypnagogia”. “Making Love In Space”. These song titles tell much about the delicate, emotive and poetic mood of Cumulushead’s 2013 EP Mind Is A Beautiful Place, which is likely to highly appeal to most of the post-rock audience. With the follow-up EP Woman Made of Smoke released in 2015, the band wandered more into dream pop and indie rock territories without losing any of its emotive power. Unfortunately the trio was not able to stay together long enough to fulfill their obvious potential and disbanded in 2015. Still a band that should not go unheard.
TAGS: Post-rock, Dream pop, Indie, Cinematic
MORE INFO: Bandcamp || Soundcloud || Facebook
NYOS are a mathy, noisey duo from Jyväskylä, although it seems like they don’t spend much time there. Tom Brooke (guitar) and Tuomas Kainulainen (drums) take touring very seriously, having already played more than 120 shows all over Europe in their relatively short time as a band. Their debut album Nature was independently released in September 2016.
NYOS have a light-heartedness to their sound, but still deliver music of substance. There’s little bass, which make their harmonic movements kind of float from one to the next, relying on intricate drumming to separate and lead the progression of sections and songs. The guitar drifts between catchy isolated melodies and spaced-out riffs, often layering upon itself to provide texture.
Being a duo really works for NYOS; the compositions are rich enough that more elements aren’t required, the space afforded to both instruments lets you absorb the feeling and expression of each musician and their sound as a whole.
We can’t pick a standout track from Nature; they are all excellent. Definitely give NYOS a listen and go see them live!
Cassie was a female-fronted, five-piece band delivering a well balanced and mood-drenched mix of shoegaze, post-rock, indie and dream pop. Following the positive reaction to their debut EP, the band released their full-length Sing About Me in 2014, and another EP titled Old Light in 2014, which all had some powerful and touching moments of dreamy gazing coupled with beautiful vocals. With its members relocating to different cities, Cassie disbanded in 2014.