Those who find Fever Ray and Grouper's brand of warped, left-field electronics absorbing will find a new favourite in Islaja. A singer/songwriter at first, Merja Kokkonen has experimented with her craft over the past dozen years, and LP number six, Tarrantulla, finds the Finnish musician releasing her most exploratory and fully realized album to date.
Once loosely lumped in with the short-lived freak-folk movement of the mid '00s, Islaja retains that ethereal element in her sound, incorporating lo-fi synths, gloomy live instrumentation and loads of disjointed arrangements into the mix. "Ghost from the Future" lays the groundwork for this nine-track/38-minute LP, as Islaja travels through four-and-a-half minutes of warped and distorted vocals, sparse beats, strings and cunning lyrics. But Islaja expands exponentially on that sound too, adding danceable rhythms and punchy vocals to "Peace Pilot" and chopped and screwed industrial beats to the haunted but beautifully delivered "Robot Arm."
Throughout much of the album, as highlighted by the raga "Sadetta" and affecting album closer "Sun luona taas," Islaja uses vocals, instrumentation and arrangements interchangeably to create something otherworldly. Tarrantulla finds Islaja breaking free from traditional songwriting, creating an album that fucks with the formula in just the right ways. (Svart)