Dusted Reviews

Lau Nau - Kuutarha

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Lau Nau

Album: Kuutarha

Label: Locust

Review date: Mar. 7, 2005

Lau Nau is the project of young twenty-something Lauren Naukkarinen. Kuutarha represents her first solo disc after working with some of Finland's current heavy hitters (she has contributed her breathy vocals to the likes of Kiila, Päivänsäde, and the Anaksimandros). Much like the stateside phenomenon that has been questionably labeled "New Weird America," the current folk and psyche scene that has cropped up over the last few years in Finland spreads its wings over a variety of sounds, textures and styles ranging from the noise freakouts and mantra-like drone minimalism of groups like Avarus to more straight-forward, singer-songwriter based material such as the aforementioned Kiila. Naukkarinen's work falls somewhere in between these two extremes, segueing effortlessly between abstract experimentation and gorgeously delicate folk harmonies. Although Kuutarha features Naukkarinen playing upwards of 20 different instruments (alongside a few guests her and there), the album is marked by its simplicity, a brooding sparseness that allows her to spend each track emphasizing different sounds, contrasts, and textures.

"Jos Minulla Olisi" begins simply enough, with the ebbing drone of what sounds like a tamboura that Naukkarinen uses as a backdrop for her wordless, lilting vocals. The track drifts serenely, with a spare, sustained violin drone counterbalancing her haunting voice. She switches to acoustic guitar for "Kuula," with hesitantly plucked notes giving her double-tracked vocals room to interweave, accenting different notes and occasionally locking into beautiful harmonies that seem almost accidental in the way they pop up. She works this same idea over the course of the next two tracks as well, varying her instrumentation each time to focus on different sounds (a mandolin here, an organ there). The tone can be exceedingly dark at times, the bare simplicity of her accompaniment accentuating her waiflike vocals in ways that seem to imply both a childlike fear and sense of wonder at the events unfolding around her.

But things pick up with "Puuportti Rautaportilta." Joined by Antti Tolvi, the duo inject violin, mandolin, and chimes with a sunny optimism that contrasts neatly with the more ominous textures that mark the first portion of the record. Pekko Käppi and Thomas Regan join in for the next two tracks, the instrumental "Johdattaja-Joleen" and "Hunnun." While the former could almost pass for a drunken jig (if you squint hard enough), the latter's rusty electric guitar figures and stray percussive elements enchant, until the steadily encroaching hum of an organ threatens to drown it all out.

While much of the album is spent exploring ideas rooted somewhat in Finnish folk, the high point comes when Naukkarinen steps outside that frame of reference to explore the traditional Nepalese sounds of "Kivi Murenee Jolla Käelee." Using the simplest of percussive figures and two mournful violin lines, Naukkarinen lays bare the connections between her own music and that of the Eastern sounds that she uses so freely throughout the disc. As opposed to incorporating these elements into her own music, like she does quite well throughout the rest of the album, here she tries to implant herself in another sound. By and large, it works beautifully, adding yet another layer of intrigue to an album that's already rife with them.

In addition to being a great listen, Lau Nau's Kuutarha is an important record because it's one of the first from the on-going Finnish folk/psyche/improv scene to be readily available in the United States (and you can add the recent Avarus double-disc Ruskeatimantti, out on Tumult, to that list as well). This circle of Finnish artists has been championed by a few in the States for some time now (most notably through Aquarius Records in San Francisco and Ed Hardy's Eclipse imprint/distribution service), but a lot of their releases have been hard to track down outside of mail order websites. Here's to hoping that Locust's release of this record signals that more are on the way.

By Michael Crumsho

Other Reviews of Lau Nau


Read More

View all articles by Michael Crumsho

Find out more about Locust

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.