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Synthesisers In The Rain

Every so often, Scandinavia produces a group who seem to exist in a world of their own, but whose music welcomes you in like an old friend. Röyksopp had that quality, so too, rather more sadistically, do The Knife.
January 1, 2010, 12:00am

Photo by Jori Hulkkonen

Every so often, Scandinavia produces a group who seem to exist in a world of their own, but whose music welcomes you in like an old friend. Röyksopp had that quality, so too, rather more sadistically, do The Knife. And now, from the land of ski-jumping and Moomins, there is Villa Nah and their enchanting dream-pop.

If you picked up last summer’s debut “VN EP”, or you’ve heard “Ways to Be” and “Envelope”, you can see why Finland is going slightly nuts for them: Villa Nah’s timeless take on romance, synthesisers and melancholy is hard to resist. A lot of the appeal lies in Juho Paalosmaa’s wistful vocal—a steamy, blue-eyed purr—but the key to it all is the way he and Tomi Hyyppä manage to imbue their songs with a sense of wonder and longing. There’s a whole album of this called Origin due in the spring.

Juho and Tomi are childhood friends who grew up in the suburbs of east Helsinki; the name Villa Nah refers to a place there. Tomi cites Sonic Youth and Underworld as influences. Juho offers David Bowie and Yellow Magic Orchestra. They compose on vintage synths and when Villa Nah play live the stage is a tangle of leads and gear. On the strength of their shows, they hooked up with Keys of Life, a sub-label of the great Sähkö Recordings, home to Mika Vainio’s Ø project and Jimi Tenor. Since then, Finland’s acid-house guru Jori Hulkkonen has helped produce their music, and remixed current single “Rainmaker”. Villa Nah also appear on Jori’s recent Man From Earth album, an astonishing record which should not be overlooked.

Vice: As locals, what would you say are the characteristics of people from Helsinki?
Tomi Hyyppä (synths): They won’t speak to you until you speak to them. But once the barrier is broken, people are very friendly.

Juho Paalosmaa (vocals/synths): People can be OK once you get to know them. Otherwise, it’s a no-man’s land. That goes for all Finland.

Where does the drama and passion in your music come from?
Tomi: Escapism. There is a better place somewhere out there.

Juho: As a Finn, being a romantic doesn’t always come across naturally. I suppose music is my way of expressing romantic thoughts… and I’ve always been too dramatic.

How would you describe your album to someone who had never heard Villa Nah?
Juho: Music about dreams and time.

How bleak do things get in Helsinki at this time of year?
Tomi: If there is snow and cold weather, everything is just beautiful. If not, this place is an ice- and mud-filled hellhole, nothing but darkness, grey skies and rain.

From my experience, when the sun comes out for the summer, Helsinki explodes in colour and there are lots of parties.
Tomi: Yeah, it’s great to see nature waking up and seeing everything grow in unison. Everybody is waiting for the summer all the time so they can go crazy. It is great!

Juho: There’s a drastic change. It’s like spending eight months in a dark cave, then suddenly someone rolls the boulder over and screams “Party time!”, bringing sunshine and alcohol. People go bonkers.

“Rainmaker” is out now on Keys of Life. Origin follows in the spring. myspace.com/villanah