So this is what Laura Naukkarinen sounded like before she turned into Lau Nau. Rat Hearts is a compilation of the songs she made between 1996 and 2001 as part of a duo called Sleeping Bags, or, as they prefer it now, Chamellows. Most of the tracks are built over a simple melody that is layered with distortion until it acquires a densely furred busyness. When Naukkarinen sings, as she does in “Nepalm” and “Rooftops”, it’s as if we’re trying to tune into the sound of her voice through an intervening fog of musical static. A flute tootles, a keyboard prangs, a violin is sawn; someone lets out a yawl. It’s the sound of decay, and of deliberate destruction; it’s the musical equivalent of those artworks for which the artist draws a picture and then scribbles over it, or piles up an assemblage of rubbish and branches. It makes sense that the other half of the Chamellows duo should have been a visual artist, Mikko Kuorinki. Even the song titles are like the titles of conceptual artworks, making descriptive sense of something that has been only lightly sketched in the work itself. Once you realise that the name of the twelfth track is “Flash Light Beat Heart”, then the sequence of limping crunches (the heart beat?) and piano (the flash light?) falls, if not into place, at least into a deeper region of understanding. The album even comes with a manifesto. (“New Age Manifest”, and it sounds like someone marching on sand while R2-D2 tries to play the flute.)
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