In the Spotlight

8-bit and stripped funk rhythms: Huoratron & Mesak

Nuorgam, the snazziest little music site in Finland, takes a long look at the bands we are carting off to Eurosonic. The episode six is all about electronic music which, in Finland, emerges from the 60's highly experimental background. Let's talk about Huoratron and Mesak.

The history of electronic music in Finland goes a little farther back than most people think. In the late 1960s Osmo Lindeman transposed his modernist composition style into an electronic environment and stayed on that road. Kinetic Forms (1969) was fully synthetic, while Ritual (1972) and Spectacle (1974) used organic sounds, like human speech, too. At the same time, down in the bowels of the Helsinki University Department of Musicology, Erkki Kurenniemi was constructing his own electronic instruments and composing pieces that would in time become the bedrock on which Finnish electronic music was built. 

Thanks to its strong experimentalist background, it’s not surprising that Finnish electronic music is diverse and artistically ambitious, and it’s more vibrant than ever right now. At somewhat opposite ends of this broad spectrum we find Huoratron and Mesak, two major names in the genre. The other name is familiar to anyone with even a passing interest in club music or most who visited the Tuska heavy metal festival last year. The other requires a more, if not refined, than at least more specific taste in electronic sounds. 

11. Huoratron

Video: Cryptocracy (dir. Lauri Warsta)

What is it?

A solo project for producer Aku Raski, started around 2002. Raski fell in love with the Commodore 64 as a child and this project started out as a dogmatic foray into chiptune, where the only tools allowed were handheld Nintendo Gameboy consoles. The merry video game melodies were forever threatened by a dark wave of sound that to this day is characteristic of Aku’s music, even though the unpredictable consoles have long since given way to a laptop. 

Why do we care?

As a young man, Raski was into alternative rock and industrial. On Cryptocracy, his debut full-length, he presents a barrage of disturbing and compressed dance music, where even the scariest sounds and most saturnine bass beats are just a part of creating a wall of sound that manages to be violent without being arrogant. Live, Huoratron explodes into a divine and heavenly orgasm of dance. If you’ve ever been, you know what to expect, but the intensity still surprises every time. Raski takes the stage with nothing but a laptop, but it’s not one of those shows where the impresario hides behind the screen, fingers on mousepad. He plays metal festivals, too, and counts artists like M.I.A. and Korn among his fans and it makes total sense.

Lineup:

Aku Raski

Releases:

Cryptocracy (Last Gang Records, 2012)

If we had to pick three adjectives to describe the band, they would be…
...dark, compressed, danceable. 

What record have the band members probably listened to the most in their lives?
Ministry’s The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste while playing Zelda on Gameboy. 

If a good fairy gave the band one wish it would be…
...to remix a jam by Samus Aran, Kerry King and Al Jourgensen.

If the band were to go on the road to support a big star, it would tour with…
...deadmau5. Both tend esthetically towards a processed formalist monotony and Huoratron’s set of dark and edgy dance music would work great before the mouse musician’s clinical "press play" extravaganza. 

In two years…
...Aku Raski will be forcing people to dance at ever-bigger parties with a more world-class presentation. There’s really no need to release records, because his popularity was always based on his intense live sets. Add to this a pile of remixes for big name US artists and a spot on the soundtrack of a Hollywood action blockbuster. 

12. Mesak

Video: popkumm 

What is it?

Turku-born Tatu Metsätähti astarted experimenting with electronic music at 13 years of age and soon decided Atari was his thing. He started working with Tatu Peltonen, as Mr. Velcro Fastener, when 1990s techno and IDM were all the rage and Mesak as a solo project was born in 1998. In 2006 Mesak and Randy Barracuda started a record company called Harmönia, which specializes in Finnish skweee music. Skweee combines synths and chiptune beats with the rhythms from soul and funk. This is the area Mesak has worked ever since. 

Why do we care?

Mesak is one of the pioneers of skweee, which originated from Finland and he is the only name in the genre that might actually be familiar to a larger audience. He has worked with Erlen Øye, released loads of records, and played in the States and all around the world. He is one of the hottest and most interesting people working in the genre. On his latest record, Cycle of 12, he goes back to his roots with some acid-drenched and nervously jerky electro that makes your eyes go glassy and your mind melt – after you’ve danced your ass off.

Lineup:

Tatu Metsätähti

Releases:

School of Mesak (Harmönia, 2010)
Dada Wheel (Klakson, 2010)
Cycle of 12 (Ghost Technology, 2011)

If we had to pick three adjectives to describe the band, they would be…
…funky, sexy, innovative.

What record have the band members probably listened to the most in their lives?
Early 1990s IDM-compilations like Artificial Intelligence I and II.

If a good fairy gave the band one wish it would be…
...experience the classic moments of soul and r&b, hang out at Kling Klang studios and dance at the Hacienda in Manchester during the golden years of acid, while still staying in touch with the present day. 

If the band were to go on the road to support a big star, it would tour with…
...Detroit legend Richie Hawtin.

In two years…
...Metsätähti will continue breaking down genre barriers as Mesak, as well as under other monikers and in diverse ensembles. 

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