Founded in 2001 by Avarus members Roope Eronen, Arttu Partinen, and Kevin Regan, the Helsinki-based Lal Lal Lal has been a mainstay of consistent quality and innovative sounds for nearly two decades, putting out material by both obscure acts as well as more recognizable names such as The Skaters, F.Ampism, and Aaron Dilloway. In July the label have joined Yellow Swans and many others in uploading official digital versions of their numerous releases, almost all of which can be streamed for free, so their page is an absolute treasure trove of wondrous curiosities for the uninitiated (or even the mostly-initiated). As usual with these label features, below I highlight some of my favorite entries in their catalog as starting points. Not included is Red Brut’s recently-reviewed Cloaked Travels, which Lal Lal Lal co-released with Ikuisuus.
Francesco Calandrino – varie/azioni (2016, CS)
This tangled, textural oddity is a completely new discovery for me. Throughout the four tracks Calandrino utilizes a unique combination of tape techniques and playback devices to manipulate instrumental source material. In a twist somewhat reminiscent of the work of Giovanni Lami, much of the sound Calandrino actually produces comes from the process of handling and playing the tape, leading to immersive stretches of dead air, hiss, churning gears, ghostly musical semblances, and mechanical clunks.
Avarus – Jättiläisrotta (2004, CD co-released w/ Secret Eye)
This was an important album for me, even though I discovered it well after its release, because it was what led me to discover the incredible enchanted wonderland of avant-garde folk music and related genres, both in Finland and around the world. Avarus’s scruffy, low fidelity drone hodgepodge is one of the most archetypal examples of the earthy DIY sound I so adore, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a key factor in establishing that adoration in the first place.
The Parels – The Parels (2016, CS)
This album has so much going for it despite only being thirty minutes: meditative tribal percussion, scorching drones, electronic freakouts, moments of pure bliss. The first of (sadly) only two releases from the duo of Jim Goodall and Eddie Ruscha, The Parels’ self-titled tape is a moody yet vibrant descent into a humid, feverish soundscape, its atmosphere equal parts manic and panicked. A perfect choice for the cover artwork as well.
Buffle – Constrictor (2006, CS)
Adorable outsider pop jams from the quartet of Denis Duez, Benjamin Francart, Xavier Garcia Bardon, and Emmanuel Gonay. The clunky jams are composed of cheesy drum loops and plastic toy instrument extravaganza, equal parts comedic and complex. An irresistible bite-sized serving of colorful, hypnotic, wonderfully amateurish instrumental stumbles that progressively get more intricate.
Mikko Lagerbohm – Digulations (2012, CS)
Digulations could be just an assemblage of forgotten, decayed microcassette recordings, but for things like this the amount of artistic involvement really isn’t of concern. Whether any or all sounds are intentional is impossible to discern. In a manner similar to artists like Michael Prior or Duncan Harrison, the primitive fidelity of the recordings frees their contents from context, allowing them to exist as textural objects as disconnected from reality as something synthesized or heavily processed.
Also make sure to check out Maniacs Dream, Fricara Pacchu, and other great acts I haven’t mentioned here.