Last weekend we had the honor to witness the first edition of the Kokeile Festival. It’s a common thing to read that throughout the Baltics and Scandinavia-Northern Europe there are interesting things going on related to the more experimental and drone side of the music spectrum, but yet it’s not something thats easy to find. It had to be in Porvoo, a medieval town in the southern coast of Finland, 50 km from Helsinki, where we found a truly experimental event like we haven’t seen in a long time. Away from the spotlight that melts inspiration and turns it into monotone patterns, you could breathe originality and sense the effort put into this event.
Porvoo is quite a calm place to be, even being the second most visited tourist destination in Finland, time there seems to have slowed down. One of the 6 medieval towns in this country, you can still find remains of the Bronze Age in some places. And somehow the connection between raw experimentation in music and this environment clicks in your head as soon as you think about it. Organized by Jan Forsman (Pigments), Astroschanutzer and Utu Lautturi, the mini-festival took place in Vanha 123, the old movie theater inside WSOY House, a praised multi-purpose place that holds a music school among other things, and became an essential cultural reference in the city. Vanha123 was shut down for many years until the Porvoo Jazz Festival started happening there, and nowadays they hold all sorts of artistic expressions.
Pigments, the project by Jan Forsman, opened the night and set the mood into a warm and mellow tone, that would remain throughout most of the festival. Going from sci-fi synths to soothing loops with his own voice, a rythmical beat was released towards the end of the performance. A live set that turned into the perfect beginning of a journey.
Utu Lautturi & Astroschnautzer became one of our favorites of the night. While Astroschnautzer set atmospheric textures that would develop into layers of analog landscapes, Utu Lautturi, who had releases in labels like Sparkwood Records from Norway or Pale Noir from USA, became the guru of a tribal immersion into the unknown by using percussion, his own voice and also some machines. Both dressed with white overalls and wearing white masks with no expression, the set turned into a true performance that seemed to dwell into the subconscious as well as the outer space, and all the things in between.
[ówt krí] is the phonetic writing of ‘outcry’, which actually relates to Kenneth Kovasin’s performance, but not so much, since the doom and drone elements of his set based mainly on his voice going through effects and the occasional accordeon (yes!) led to an introspective path. His debut album was on the American label Alrealon Musique.
Ihmineläin is the project by Henry Vistbacka, also known for his works as Taiunta or for being the guitar player and vocalist of the bands Härmälän Mimosa and Human By Nature. He also performed using his voice as an instrument, accompanied by several pedals on the floor. Raw and sometimes industrial, he created quite some tension and anxiety while we were waiting for what we considered the main dish of this feast of sounds: Lackluster.
Esa Ruoho aka Lackluster has been making music for more than 2 decades, with releases on the legendary Merck label, or also De:Focus, and remixes on the renowned n5MD among many, many other imprints. He is definitely one of the major names in electronica coming from Finland. Not surprisingly at all, he delivered a cohesive ride throughout some of his highlights that seemed much longer than it actually was. Every artist was given 30 minutes to perform at the festival, and Lackluster was the one who played the less spacious mix. From hints of ambience at the beginning until intricate rythmical patterns and from emotional melodies to breaks and brainy beats. With the most simple setup on stage, he proved that music speaks for itself.
Local artists Wintermute provided a modular synths live set to close the festival. With a more structured rythm pattern than everyone before, they developed a sound rich in textures and timbres, always sitting on a tech background, perfect for ending the journey with a strongly rythmical expression. You could dance to this.
The details on the scenario and the vjing of CMDVJS throughout the entire event deserve to be mentioned too. From live text improvisation to complete psychedelia, and from static sketches until footage that would give you goosebumps, it created an ideal visual context.
Outside of the movie theater they invited the audience to go and play and try to make their own music. There were some percussion instruments available and also a Roland TR-505, among other things, it was a fun initiative. Kokeile Festival was totally worth the trip to Porvoo. And as they said, there are more events to come in the future. If they are able to mantain the level, because they already set the bar quite high, we can say there is still hope, and that it’s true that the experimental music scene in Finland is flourishing.