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Keraaminen Pää

FR 072CD FR 072CD

Islaja is the recording alias of Merja Kokkonen, a musician and visual artist from Helsinki, currently based in Berlin. A regular contributor to the more psych/folk and improv-oriented Kemialliset Ystävät and Avarus, Islaja's recordings are by contrast almost entirely self-contained, reflecting the more personal nature of her music, and a natural affinity towards an independent/DIY aesthetic. Her fourth album for Fonal, Keraaminen Pää (trans. "Ceramic Head") contains many shades of black. It also bears witness to a shift in perception and execution; yet the thread that weaves its way through all Islaja's work remains resolute, visible and intact. If Islaja's previous albums for Fonal appear to exhibit a more overtly pastoral nature, this in part feels coincidental, or secondary to something much larger and more difficult to define. From the earliest Islaja recordings, Merja has made the simplest of instrumentation work to her own ends, displaying a disquieting combination of innocence and fearlessness, and a seemingly innate ability to transcend the confines of a genre. It is the same singular approach and vision that informs Keraaminen Pää -- born largely of whatever instruments were on hand; if the sound has shifted into more electronic terrain, it remains as immersive and subtly evocative as ever. When sketching out the dimensions of Keraaminen Pää, Islaja was clear about one thing: the album should have a soul within, preferably silky thin and translucent, like a jellyfish swimming around in the ocean. During the recording process, however, Keraaminen Pää turned into a heavy, robot-molded disc of clay. It spins, shines, pops and crackles, all the while escaping definition. This is also is the first Islaja album to feature English translations of Merja's lyrics. The songs on Keraaminen Pää were written, composed, and recorded on three continents over a period of three years, with Islaja performing, recording and mixing the majority of the album herself. The recordings may recall the waves crashing on the Bight of Benin, the frogs croaking on Lantau Island, the starry sky above Roihuvuori, Helsinki, or maybe a one-euro pizza in Berlin. Less fractured and more fleshed out than previous Islaja recordings, the songs still careen recklessly, pulsing and shifting with a life of their own.