I’m happy to announce that two short films I made a few years ago will be screened at the Iiriksen AaVeet event in Kino Iiris, Lahti, Friday November 22. Only a handful of people have seen either of them so far*, so we could call it a rare opportunity.
Through My Dreams Like a Knife (2014) a dialogueless black & white short film about self-reflection, wandering and transformation. Shot in the summer of 2013 in Perniö, Teisko and Venäjänkangas.
3rd Mind (for Bill & Brion) (2013) was inspired by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, especially their cinematic experiments with Antony Balch, as well as – obviously – their idea about the third mind that is present in every fruitful collaboration.
Both flicks feature Ovro aka Satu K and myself, both behind and in front of the camera. Both are true zero-budget DIY works made for the the love of making them, and as such quite personal and introspective.
( * I know. I should put more emphasis on promoting things, but it seems somewhat against my process-oriented nature. When I’m done with something I’m eager to move on to a new project…)
It’s a certain sign of aging when you find yourself repeatedly thinking about people and events from 20, 25 or even 30 years ago. And although 40+ years is no achievement by current standards, some people don’t get even that.
The one person I’m thinking about in this case is Heikki Huhtanen, also known as Henry Zalkin, who passed away 20 years ago. My first acquaintance with Heikki was sometime in the early 1990s via a letter and a demo tape. The tape contained a demo by Bulimia, his band or more accurately a solo project. We exchanged some letters and later switched to email when it became more commonplace. I only met Heikki twice, and on both occasions quite briefly, but through our correspondence I got to know him as a man of many interests and great sense of humour. Besides making music he was a writer, a student of slavic languages at the University of Helsinki, and he also played classical music in an orchestra (I forget which instrument).
We shared quite some interests, mainly experimental and industrial music and (more or less) related subcultures, some of the stars in the hemisphere being William S. Burroughs, Genesis P-Orridge, The Master Musicians of Joujouka, Coil, Bill Laswell, Hakim Bey… and the list goes on.
Heikki’s music under the name Bulimia was released at the time on the electro-industrial compilation albums Freeze and Freeze 2 (on the Finnish EBM/industrial label Cyberware) as well as some international underground compilations. His demos received some confused reviews in Frantic Magazine which was the main electro/industrial magazine in Finland at the time.
Later, in 1997, we found both of us featured on an underground compilation tape The Members of Sonic Cults – me then under the name Cold Once Turning Dust (originally formed as a group in 1993, but the other members didn’t stick for long) and Heikki as Janko, Krul’ Albanskaj. His piece was an excerpt from a lengthy drone-noise colossus called Moscow, which, according to Heikki, contained (among other debris) field recordings made in Moscow back in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed.
I was fascinated by his style and approach – very knowledgeable, detailed and accomplished with decidedly lo-fi DIY methods, yet with tongue in cheek deep enough to confuse many. I guess he felt similarly about my work, anyway we both found quite a bit of mutual ground over which to discuss collaborating one way or another.
Our working methods were somewhat similar, too. Mainly abandoning conventional instrumentation, our main tools were tape recorders (for field recordings and other sound trawling), computer for crude sound generation and sequencing, and a 4-track recorder for recording and mixing. Heikki did play several instruments, though, a little example can be seen in this video from a party. (Thanks to Timo Tropiikista for uploading and blogging about it!)
At the time, in the late 1990s, Heikki was working on an album for Janko, Krul’ Albanskaj. On the basis of the Moscow excerpt mentioned above I expressed my interest in releasing the album on my newly established label Some Place Else. Finally in the summer of 1999 he completed the album and send me the master on MiniDisc, as well as a bunch of images I could use for the album cover art.
Around the same time he also mailed me a bunch of other recordings, on tape, asking me to transfer them to MiniDiscs for future use. (Before CDRs became commonplace, MiniDisc was a handy and affordable format for backups, master recordings etc.)
Then, after a brief period of silence, the sad news arrived. Heikki had passed away on September 5, 1999, from heart failure. He was 24 years old.
After recovering from the devastating news, I proceeded with the plans we had agreed on. I did the album artwork based on the images and notes Heikki had sent me. Finally in January 2001, Some Place Else released the Janko, Krul’ Albanskaj album. Bearing the cryptic title Ekezhhm, Gyuvel Pyuganlahkh Aektspyud?, it contained four pieces, including the complete 46-minute Mockba opus. Honestly, the album was no hit even in the underground scale, and I still have a bunch of CDs remaining from the edition of 500 copies. Nevertheless, I always considered it a great success on an artistic level – Heikki’s approach to experimental noise and sound collage was unlike anything else released in Finland. I just listened to the album while writing this, and find it still fresh and interesting after all these years.
One thing I still regret is that we never did that collaboration that we repeatedly talked about. Time just didn’t seem ripe for it, until there was no time anymore.
Now, about the bunch of other tapes Heikki sent me back in the day. In the recent “archival excavations” I went through all the tapes and minidiscs he sent me, along with the letters, notes and tracklists, and had all of them transfered to digital. It amounts to this:
Bulimia – About two albums worth of material, including various demos and other recordings throughout the 1990s.
Janko, Krul’ Albanskaj – some tracks made for another album, plus other recordings and remixes; about one album’s worth of material.
Miscellaneous other recordings, including a collection of tracks with a theme/title “Psychoswing”.
For a long time I’ve been thinking about these recordings. I think if Heikki was still around he would most probably have released his works online, but as he’s not, and there was no plan announced, the music remains unreleased, for now.
I would certainly like to hear stories from people who used to know and be in touch with Heikki Huhtanen aka Henry Zalkin. If you have any memories about him feel free to share in the comment section. If you happen to have any of his music on tape or other formats, I would very much like to have a listen.
Life is temporary, but experiences, memories and deeds live on as long as the stories are told and the works viewed and listened to.
About 21 years ago, in August 1998, my debut album was released. In order to celebrate a little bit, in an almost private matter (I’m not a party person), a small edition called Grey Bloom XXI Anniversary Set was made, containing the original 12″LP from 1998 (my last copies), plus the tracks restored & remastered from original tapes on CDR + download, with booklet, plus an art print to go.
GREY BLOOM [xero vol zero] 12″LP, my debut solo album, was released in August 1998 on Some Place Else in an edition of 210 copies. The last 20 copies were archived years ago, they have been unearthed for this set.
GREY BLOOM [XXI Engram Recall] CDR presents the album material restored from the original 4-track source tapes. Remastered faithfully to the originals and the artist’s intent. Includes download code. Comes with 8-page info/art booklet.
“Grey Bloom 93” art print is a photograph selected from the series shot on film back in 1993, used on the original album art. Dimensions: 30cm x 30cm (image 23cm x 18cm).
My latest solo exhibition opened on Tuesday at Galleria Uusi Kipinä in Lahti. The audiovisual installation The Unfolding (in finite space) will be there to be experienced up to July 14. Despite the usual difficulties with funding and the like, the installation turned out pretty awesome.
On a whim I decided to make a small edition CDR album that collects various soundscapes produced for (or otherwise related to) The Unfolding. However, due to sudden problems with the printer, I got only 6 copies made! That’s a future rarity, if something. A few of these are for sale on the PARAFERAL shop, grab yours now!
The album, called The Unfolding – Themes & Variations, is also available as a download via a bunch of codes that can be found at the gallery, while the exhibition is on.
Time has a spiral nature. Events follow one another, but not in strict linear fashion. Transverse threads pierce through the fabric and create connections, like shortcuts.
Rewind back to May 1997. I was wrapping up my graphic design studies, about to move back to Turku, and most of all determined to focus on music and visual design. I founded the record label Some Place Else as a platform to produce, release and distribute experimental music made by myself and like-minded individuals. It’s a long story, to be elaborated elsewhere, but in the end of 2013 I put Some Place Else on hold, in order to reset my focus and redirect my creative energies for the future.
Forward to May 2014. I was about to graduate from my fine art studies. Sitting in a café in Toronto, I was scribbling down ideas and plans for the future in my sketchbook. That moment, PARAFERAL was conceived.
For my creative work, I always, intuitively, create a kind of hermetic working space – mental and physical – a place that by default is more or less isolated from the daily chores and the social world of human activity. A space isolated from distractions, as well as a channel to communicate the results of the work to the world at large.
Back in the day when it still made sense I had the record label as a shelter for creative works. Now, even though it may not make sense (financially and otherwise) I have PARAFERAL as an artistic research / development / production platform. On the street level it’s just another artist’s studio and workshop. Undernearth there’s a gateway to a vast network of tunnels, a transdimensional labyrinth through the mind and body of the technological animal.
The currency of the surface [exo] is Gold, the currency of the underworld [eso] is Gnosis.
Now, May 2019. I’m finally able to invest more time and resources in PARAFERAL, especially its production side. A new website was launched recently. Although still very much a work-in-progress, it features a shop with some initial offerings. More PARAFERAL products – books, music, media objects etc. – will be made available, as well as selected original artworks.
It’s a slow process, as it’s basically me handling everything, with limited time and resources. Nevertheless, this is what I do, what I’ve always done, abd PARAFERAL is another aspect, or a new level. Some steps further underground we go…
The spiral nature. Certain periods (like the ones above), although linearly distant, seem closely related and and mutually resonant through rhizome-like energetic shortcuts surrounding the four-dimensional coil-like quasi-entity commonly recognised as an individual being.
Installing the exhibition at GalleriaKONE. Photo by Satu Karhumaa.
For the last few months I’ve been mostly absent from all social contacts (virtual and otherwise) apart from what’s absolutely necessary. It’s a common side effect when I focus all my thoughts and energy to something I’m working on. It is an internal process to which social chatter is distractive and disruptive, even. (Having said that, my sincere apology to all friends & associates I’ve unintentionally neglected recently… I miss you and wish to have a chat over coffee/beer/etc asap!)
The last few months I worked intensively to finalize the work that is now out there as BLACKTOP/DISSECTION. The whole process was rather lengthy, beginning some two and half years ago as my MA thesis. After completing the thesis the work continued and expanded to new levels of depth.
I feel like I’ve been held captive by this work for the last few months (and more). It has made me drive the highways, trawl the forest paths and dig through my archives in search for material. It has woken me up in the early hours with ideas for editing, composing and fear of failure. Now that it’s out there in the world I finally feel free. It turned out right and the current gallery presentation is fine.
It is likely, though, there will be other works related to this one. It’s been a long process and many aspects researched and developed are not yet present in the current incarnation. For instance, a lot of sound and music was made, out of which only a small portion is currently audible in the installation. Having worked in the context of album-length music for many years, I automatically think about making an album out of these sounds… but let’s see how things turn out.
The feelings I’m currently having make me think about the fluctuation of energy related to the creative process. (Note to science buffs: I’m writing about ‘vital energy’ which is somewhat mysterious and esoteric and may not follow the known laws of physics, so bear with me.) After investing a great deal of vital energy to a process, the energy is released in the form of a completed artwork (or something else, depending on the process of course). A period marked by exhaustion often follows. The shortage of energy feels like a vacuum within. The vacuum’s tendency towards implosion has some similarities to feelings of burnout, depression and the like, and it may lead to those if not handled with care and proper attention to what’s going on.
The void will eventually be filled with new energy. Sometimes, the void draws in unhealty energy that may manifest as depression, mania or other ‘malfunctions’ of the mind. I’m sure every creative person intuitively knows this, but not everyone is consciously aware or capable of dealing with it. I’ve had my share of depression and other woes in the past and, although having learnt a thing or two about myself and these processes over the years, will probably have some more in the future.
As of right now, though, I’m acutely observing this fine balance of an attractive void to be saturated by various kinds of energies circling around it. Imagine a spiral of stars around a massive black hole…
I don’t remember having observed this ‘background process’ this consciously before. Obviously my interest lies in the direction of energies, inviting positives and banishing negatives. Now that there’s time for rest and recreation and no pressure (internal or otherwise) to initiate a new project (even though there are plenty waiting on the drawing board… they can wait), the odds should be on my side.
I may post more about this shortly. Or perhaps, this self-research could form the basis for an altogether new work. Remains to be seen.
To briefly break the silence, my next solo show opens on Friday the 29th March at GalleriaKONE, Hämeenlinna. It’s the premiere of my new work called BLACKTOP/DISSECTION, a two-part two-channel video installation.
My Master of Arts thesis for Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture is called Uneasy Ride. It consists of an artistic part, a cinematic installation, and a written part called Uneasy Ride: Chasing Freedom, Facing Devastation, presented in the form of a 80-page book. Completed in September 2018.
A batch of thesis books fresh from the press.
This thesis examines the essential themes of the road movie film genre and their relation to certain contemporary issues and my own artistic practice. The point of view is that of a visual artist who works with moving image and sound and who reveres sovereignty and equality, suffers from climate anxiety and drives an automobile. In addition to the written part, the thesis consists of an artistic production which is a video installation.
The research material consists of a selection of films, beginning with classic American road movies. The thesis also examines a number of films that are not road movies per se, but they serve as a continuation of the themes, illustrating a vision of a near future that is undesirable but at worst inevitable. Additionally the text examines selected experimental films that are either relevant to the subject matter or influential to the author’s working methods and aesthetic practices. The literary research material includes books and articles that elaborate on the themes brought forth in the films from various points of view.
The research begins with various phenomena influential to the emergence of the road movie genre, from the developments in cinema and technology to the counterculture movements of the 1960s. The themes selected for further study are the pursuit of freedom, the rebellion, and the transformation of the passenger enabled by the journey. The themes are entwined with the Western notions of freedom and the human condition, the long history of consciousness expansion, and environmental disasters.
Additionally the text describes the two-channel video installation also called Uneasy Ride. The artistic process at the crossroads of image, sound and the selected themes is discussed. Most of the material for the work was filmed on the road. The filming trips and the writing overlapped and influenced each other, in particular the experiences of being on the road sustained the written part.
The written part of the thesis uses the films as a metaphor of the human condition and the current global problems surrounding us. The artistic part attempts to communicate on an emotional level and by audiovisual means something unattainable by words alone.
20 years ago today, I released my debut solo album. I called it Grey Bloom [xero vol zero] and put it out on 12″ vinyl on my own small underground label Some Place Else. Always thinking bigger than my resources allow, it was supposed to be followed shortly by another LP with a related theme and tracks recorded at the same period. The album’s subtitle was supposed to refer to that, though in retrospect it seems like a planned one-off… “vol zero” ? Anyways, plans changed, other things came up and the follow-up got buried and forgotten.
Grey Bloom was a rather bleak and minimal album recorded with a very lo-fi setup that included a 486 PC computer (for some basic sound generation), a delay pedal, a bass guitar, some cheap keyboard, fm radio etc, recorded with a 4-tracker and mixed down to a minidisc (which I had just acquired to ‘upgrade’ from C-cassette masters).
The pinnacle of the album’s success for me happened when Jukka Mikkola played it on his radio show Avaruusromua, the legendary Finnish show for experimental and ambient music through which I had learned about the likes of Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno and more, back in the early 1990’s. It was absolutely the greatest honour that could have happened to the album, I was so happy about that!
This summer I’ve looked back and spent a few days with my old tape archive, going through master tapes and original 4-track recordings, to refresh my memory on past deeds a bit, and to transfer everything to digital. There are plenty of recordings that never ended up on a release, and to my surprise I found some of them a lot more interesting than what I chose to release back then. It’s all lo-fi sound collage type experiments recorded on a 4-track, so there’s a particular charm of tape hiss and other artifacts involved. Selected bits may come out in some form in the future, those interested should stay tuned on this frequency.
The rotating camera captured the show. Composer Shinji Kanki conducts the orchestra that on this occasion featured Tommi Keränen (HCO founder), Pilvari ‘Nosfe’ Pirtola, Jusu Vehviläinen (Pink Twins), Ovro, Ibrahim Terzic, O Samuli A, Jukka Vallisto (Lost Weight / Half A Map), Emi Maeda, Lauri Luhta, myself and some others I fail to remember at this time (sorry).
I was in the dolphin section, the role of which was to imitate the pulse sounds that the dolphin language is based on. My setup, based on Reaktor modular environment, was a rather simple but accurate sine wave pulse generator.
Interesting to listen to this after almost 15 years from its performance — it still sounds awesome, especially the latter half where the piece gets going and reaches a kind of energetic equilibrium.
Helsinki Computer Orchestra rehearsals at Sibelius Academy. Photo by Shinji Kanki.