Armas Huutamo - Aurinko on Kaunis Asia / Javelin - Oh Centra (Lal Lal Lal 7"s)
This is part one of two Lal Lal Lal reviews - today's the 7"s, tomorrow's the cassettes. Why not spread the love around? A couple weeks ago on a whim I ordered four Lx3 releases without reading much about them. I wound up with tapes by Master Qsh, Maniacs Dream, Fricara Pacchu and an LP by Paavi. I've only had time to play the Fricara Pacchu tape (ruled so hard it brought tears to my eyes) and the LP (the less said the better). How could I not be enamored by a label that threw me in two wildly different directions? A Finnish-based label, no less? Whose releases generally explode with fantastic artwork and have already put out recordings by various underground respectoids like Avarus, Keijo, Neil Campbell, the Skaters and Kemialliset Ystavat. Not too long after I ordered the Lal crew announced four more new releases, which I also promptly snapped up. At this point I'm just trying to catch up, to be the first kid on my block with all the hippest, weirdest releases. And I think I might've succeeded, at least with these two 7" platters. But is that for better...or for worse? Read on!
LAL-26 comes from Armas Huutamo who have an awesome logo, awesome artwork and an "expert opinion" quote on the backside extolling the virtues of this group. Just who is this group? Well the backside also says that this is a "DIY art punk band" featuring two (nameless) kids who recorded 50 improvised cuts in the summer of 1998 - when they were in their mid-teens! So is it a rare find of truly undiscovered raw talent? No, but I don't think it was meant to be. LLL always had that sort of immature, infantile vibe (I mean it as a good thing, really) so "Aurinko on Kaunis Asia" fits the bill to a T. It's hard to get a handle on AH's sound - the aforementioned quotes pretty much do the trick. Two songs on the A side, three on the B. Teenage Finland punk rock with a drum machine and some hilariously enthusiastic anthemic vocals/shouts. I guess I was initially reminded of early Nirvana, NoFX, and basically any other incompetant punk band you want to name. On the other hand I was also picking up touches of La Quiete (although much less chaotic) despite La Quiete not existing in 1998. And even though it's not black or metal or black metal in the slightest, some of these riffs were dead ringers for the dead ringers found on Bone Awl's "Up to Something" tape. I swear! Maybe if I was a bit more heavy on the hyperbole I would tag AH as Bone Awl reimagined in the sweaty Finnish summer of 1998 with a brighter outlook on life but then again I can't exactly understand what AH's vocalist is yelling about anyway. The highlights would have to be the baffling, quasi-guitar solo on the title track and the furious punk/hardcore moves on "Mitas me Pienista" (I'm not even going to venture a guess as to what that title means). "Kolome Kissaa" opens with a funky techno-ish beat and contains some severely gargled, warped vocals while the other tracks are just quick flashes of two dudes playing as fast and as free as they can. What else can I say? I could only see myself giving this one serious time at a party or a gathering of some sort. I think if LLL's going to spend their money on this project they should go all the way and release all 50 songs on a double-disc effort so we could get the full Armas Huutamo picture. I played this on 33 rpm as well and though the music got considerably thicker, the vocals just morphed into this angry drunk foreign diplomat thing; it didn't really work.
Javelin (not to be confused with the power metal band) are from Providence, RI and not Finland but are no less wacko. Like, seriously batty. Or should I say catty? Really, turn the 7" over and there's like a whole bunch more cartoon cats just hanging out. It's cool, cats are cool. But I don't even know what to make of this one. Side A (featuring the song "Oh Centra" I think) sees a high-pitched equally-cartoony voice delivering monotonic lines over a techno/dance/pop/synth beat. Lines about "playing you like sudoku". It's like, uh, Ladytron or the Self album with all the toys or some sugar-sweet J-pop or I don't even know what. The B side doesn't confuse me any less and features a more masculine voice chanting "S-C-H-O-O-L go to school" alongside a kinda R&B-ish beat. And the other song has a bunch of splices and samples of someone intoning something about a mobile phone. The Lal Lal Lal website suggests the group mixes samples along with actual playing and that definitely makes sense (if anything makes sense here) but it's impossible to tell what's coming from them and what's coming from the tape recorder. I also understood a bit better when I read that these cats (ha!) were coming from Providence, and you'd kinda understand too if you heard it.
So I may not be exactly in love with both of these records (though I think the Armas Huutamo one deserves at least another spin or two), I cherish them all the same because they represent the consistently beguiling, enigmatic nature of the Lal Lal Lal label. Yeah we all have our favorite labels because they have our favorite artists on them and they deliver a reliable sound...but I like Triple-L not only because they consistently deliver, but because they consistently deliver legitimately challenging and innovative sounds. I look forward to trying to digest and explain the forthcoming tapes...where's my thesaurus at?