London based Nordic website and music night ‘Ja Ja Ja’ celebrated its third birthday at The Lexington in Islington with the first live performance outside Finland of SIN COS TAN, the acclaimed duo who released their self-titled debut recently to great acclaim. In short, it is one of the best albums of 2012. Headlining the event was Danish post-R’n’B songstress MØ who has just been longlisted in ‘The Blog Sound of 2013’ plus there was additional support from Norway’s HIGHASAKITE.
Showcasing the best emerging talents from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Finland, ‘Ja Ja Ja’ has become an established cultural beacon for the Nordic region and in a totally packed out venue, the beautiful and the bearded mingled alongside musical figures from different generations. The legendary RUSTY EGAN could be spotted chatting with up-and-coming electro chanteuse KARIN PARK while also in attendance were Bas Productions’ Deb Danahay and TENEK’s Pete Steer.
The evening began with indie popsters HIGHASAKITE, notable for their use of zither in their textural soundboard by vocalist Ingrid Helene Havik. While veering more on the organic spectrum, they have that common thread with many Scandinavian acts of chilly melancholy and a knack for melody plus that dash of Arctic Circle oddness.
SIN COS TAN bring the Finnish weather with them and are dressed appropriately for the conditions. Despite being a new act by definition, the pair are actually experienced hands. On the left is Jori Hulkkonen, the ace music producer who has collaborated with JOHN FOXX but found Top30 fame as part of TIGA & ZYNHTHERIUS with an electroclash cover of ‘Sunglasses At Night’.
On the right meanwhile is Juho Paalosmaa, lead vocalist with VILLA NAH who supported OMD and produced an album of superbly crystalline pop entitled ‘Origin’. It was The Electricity Club’s favourite long player of 2010. Although Hulkkonen was VILLA NAH’s co-producer on ‘Origin’, SIN COS TAN are somewhat different with indie, lounge and R’n’B influences on the table alongside the usual synthpop and dance colours. For the live showcase however, the audience gets a bias towards the latter, melodic hooks blending with the danceable drum machines and grainy string samples that are very much a Hulkkonen trademark.
‘Sooner Than Now’ acts as a funereal introduction before ‘Bittersweet’ opens out with more conventional instrumentation alongside the synths. The tracks are segued using dialogue from cult British TV shows with the dulcet tones of Patrick McGoohan among the voices adding a schizophrenic mystery to proceedings. SIN COS TAN make an interesting pair; Paalosmaa – all very intense and committed, Hulkkonen – laid back and almost nonchalant. It’s a classic combination resulting in “a synthesized duo of great promise, broken dreams and long nights”.
A more classic synthpop template a la PET SHOP BOYS arrives appropriately enough with ‘History’ but the brilliantly off-kilter ‘All I Ever Dream Of’ throws people who are looking to dance slightly off the scent. However, the audience is rewarded with the neo-Balearic ‘Calendar’ and an extended workout of ‘Trust’. ‘Trust’ captures a bite that pushes forward the definition of retro-futurism like a 21st Century answer to ‘Enjoy The Silence’. Those who think there are no longer any new ideas in electronic music, please listen again…it’s time to rethink one’s trigonometric functions.
What SIN COS TAN perhaps lack in projection, they make up for in the strength of their songs and their sound. But then again, when you put one of the best producers and one of the best tunesmiths from the Finland station together in a room, this should not be entirely unexpected. The Nordic region is where it’s at with electronic music at the moment. Cold dark evenings and synthesizers…it’s a concoction made in heaven.
Concluding the evening, headliner MØ is impressive. Karen Marie Ørsted’s biography simply says: “The snow nation is eating your brain and your young heart – dark as the apocalypse. So just go perish in the snøw”! She defines her music as “Electronic Soul” and on hearing her live on the singles ‘Maiden’ and ‘Pilgrim’, she comes across like LANA DEL REY trapped in a frozen Fjord. The resonant synthesized backing hops from hybrid dubstep to Phil Spector gone Sci-Fi while there are also elements of how AMY WINEHOUSE would have sounded under Northern Lights. She uses the stage well to give a charismatically spirited performance which is kooky and profound but very immediate.
Scandinavia may be geographically cold and dark but ‘Ja Ja Ja’ provided a wonderful evening of ambassadorial warmth and intriguing music to savour. So here’s to its fourth year as an influential artistic platform and continuing this Nordic Affair.
With thanks to Debbie Ball at Create Spark
Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Richard Price
5th December 2012