If you were to gauge Finnish music as a whole based on Fonal Records’ output, you’d probably think the country itself is slightly detuned. The label has released a string of incredibly odd but entirely engaging records from a number of sound artists, including one of its finest exports, Merja Kokkonen, who records as Islaja. Kokkonen’s third album under the Islaja moniker, Ulual YYY, isn’t a grand departure from the usual spacey, junk-store folk she’s released in the past (including on her brilliant second album, Palaa Aurinkoon), but she has made some slight adjustments.
For one, the ambient sounds of Ulual YYY are a pinch colder and more dissident than its predecessor’s. Litters of ghost insects and whistling gypsies haunt tracks, and Yoko Ono-esque purrs are dropped like glass vases over the surface of an oily field of elastic keyboard grease and chiming sandpaper guitars. This is the pop music of experimental folk, really, an effectively presented collection of shattered sound poems. With an upcoming live release on Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace label, we haven’t heard the last — or possibly even the best — of Islaja.