From the never-ending daylight hours of summer, to the relentless darkness of the winter months, Finland is a land of contrasts. Out of this contradictory environment comes Husky Rescue, a band of equally contrasting parts.
With the departure of long-term vocalist Reeta Vestman, founder and producer Marko Nyberg rebuilt the group from the ground up, recruiting self-confessed computer nerd Antony Bentley, and the elfin Johanna Kalén on vocals. Like their music, the trio are intelligent, thoughtful and gently spoken, pioneers of experimental, ambient pop focused on the work rather than any particular movement or scene. From their studio in Helsinki - an Aladdin’s Cave of ultra-modern and retro gadgets - Marko says: “It’s been a super exciting time for us. The dynamics used to be very different - we used to be six, and now we are three. It’s actually beautiful to be that compact.’
This reconfiguration prompted a period of exploration, and inspiration was found in the juxtaposition of the old and the new. A YouTube clip led them to the Brooklyn studio of Joe McGinty, an avid collector of vintage keyboards, and prompted their current fascination with ’60s and ’70s era machines. For most recent EP, ‘Deep Forest Green’, the band merged high-tech computer wizardry with these analogue keyboards and traditional acoustic instruments like the Swedish nyckelharpe: “It’s actually great to get to that area where the technology can help you to get something extra,” Marko explains. “And that’s what we get through some old stuff and old equipment. With this EP the key thing was that we were merging old and new.” Antony agrees, adding, “It’s about merging the worlds - there’s not that many interesting things you can do with just a computer but it gets a little bit more interesting when you startcombining things. One thing we did in Brooklyn, for instance, was controlling analogue modular synths in completely mad ways with a computer.”
The boys are delightfully geeky when it comes to explaining their processes, pausing to play clips and short films to illustrate their points to a slightly bemused Clash. They’re particularly animated when describing how they’ve been using pre-MIDI contra-voltage boxes to synchronise different synthesizers, allowing a more ‘open discussion’ between them - “They feel way more human.” They’re equally excited about recent experimentations with granular synthesis which is, as Antony elucidates, “based on tiny grains of sound from a source, and playing back so many of them that it becomes this kind of smooth ocean of these grains. Sometimes it’s synthesisers, sometimes it’s voices, sometimes it’s whistling into the iPhone and putting that into the mix!”
On this extraordinary configuration of instruments and technologies, Marko says: “I think it’s like the bride at the wedding - it’s something old, something borrowed… something stolen! As a producer that makes it interesting. I’m not after replicating. On the forthcoming album we’re going to use this traditional Swedish folk instrument because it touches some kind of trigger points inside, and it sounds so futile to play. When these instruments are mixed with this closeto-modern and modern technology it’s actually an interesting picture.”
Words: Theresa Heath
Photographer: Rory Van Millingen
This is an excerpt from the November 2012 issue of Clash magazine. Find out more about the issue.
Husky Rescue play The Scala in London tonight (Monday 12th November) with Pepe Deluxe.