Islaja S U U
Published Apr 01, 2014It has been a decade since Finnish musician Merja Kokkonen (Islaja) emerged from the forest to drop her debut album of outsider folk, the immersive Meritie, on the Fonal imprint. Fonal, which is run by the unbelievably talented Sami Sänpäkkilä, has been responsible for the large crop of psychedelic fairy dust that has blanketed the Finnish countryside since the 1990s, with releases from the likes of Kemialliset Ystävät, Paavoharju and Sänpäkkilä's own Es project gracing the label's catalogue.
Kokkonen herself has a quartet of releases for Fonal, the last missive being 2010's Keraaminen Pää. A move to Berlin and a shift in direction — from forest-dwelling folk weirdo to minimal wave synthesist — has situated Kokkonen as a mechanoid chanteuse. The roots of her sound have dissolved and the dirt-strewn foliage has disintegrated, leaving servos and circuits to invade the territory left behind. S U U is the artist's debut for the Berlin-based Monika Enterprise label, an imprint that leans more toward the electron-slinging side of the musical spectrum. It's a perfect landing pad for the sparse electronic beats and alien tones that embody the bulk of Kokkonen's latest sonic vehicle.
Fans of her earthy siren songs may need a little coaxing to embrace this sudden about face, but with Kokkonen's unflagging and powerful vocal tone being pushed even further to the forefront on S U U, it's difficult to imagine any listener being disappointed with this stunning effort. (Monika Enterprise)