With an eclectic roster of musicians covering a multitude of genres across music’s multi-coloured spectrum, Svart Records has its Finnish finger on the pulse of the idiosyncratic music that currently makes Finland a fertile breeding ground for grand artistic achievements. This February sees the release of the new EP from Svart’s Sammal, plainly titled No. 2, and if you didn’t know anything about Sammal and caught a glimpse of this EP’s sleeve and heard the music accompanying it, you’d think Svart were reissuing a forgotten record from the halcyon days of early 1970s folk-influenced prog rock. But no, this is not some musty vinyl score from a Finnish flea market, and these guys are not a figment arising from one of Ian Anderson’s delayed acid trips. Sammal are a living, breathing, modern band, as their music video for the unpronounceable-to-non-Finnish-speakers “Tähdelle kuolemaan”, which is hosted below, kindly highlights.
Upon viewing the video, you are left with the impression that Sammal are a contradiction of sorts. They are a band playing unabashed prog-without-the-pretention, audibly influenced by the traditional timbres of their homeland, yet the modern video displays no visible signs of creating a kind of “retro” persona. Hand-held video footage of the view through the windscreen of a vehicle as it hurtles along at night while the fluorescent glow of street lights flash by is sound-tracked by a homily of quaint folk turns and harmonies homogenous to Finland. Further divergent scenes of urban life, of the cooling glow of the sun as it reflects across the sea, of nature, and of the inside of a club hosting what is presumably a Sammal show all pass by.
Naturally the sway of the music compliments the flow of the shots of appealing scenery, but the real point to take from this video—which is simple in its treatment—is that, as the less tranquil scenes of contemporary life contrast with the music, we are conscious of the here and now and that Sammal’s style of music isn’t trapped inside a time-capsule snuggled neatly beside Camel’s Mirage and Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter. Theirs is a style of music that will always be timeless, even when it’s not “popular” in the context of modern pop culture, and that’s what makes Sammal so interesting, and ultimately what makes Svart Records, who bear such artists, so important.
The No.2 EP—which features three re-recorded old demo tracks, a new song “Vankina varisten”, and a cover of Aphrodite’s Child’s “Magic Mirror” (translated to “Peilin taikaa”)—will be released on LP, CD and as a digital download on the 14th of February 2013, in conjunction with the second vinyl pressing of Sammal’s eponymous debut, originally released in 2013.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong online. Please consider a donation to support our work as an independent publisher devoted to the arts and humanities. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where advertising no longer covers our costs. We need your help to keep PopMatters publishing. Thank you.