Lau Nau, Islaja, Kuupuu | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Lau Nau, Islaja, Kuupuu 

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These bands are all members of a Finnish underground that parallels the American scene including groups like Pelt, Tower Recordings, and Born Heller. They play music that feels rustic but spurn allegiances to traditional forms, drawing freely from rock, experimental, and international styles. It's a tight-knit scene--everybody seems to play in everybody else's bands--and the musicians share a penchant for making inexpensive home recordings that they later put out on dedicated microlabels. Illusia (Time-Lag) is the first U.S. release by KUUPUU, a solo project of Jonna Karanka; the seven-inch includes two delicate, meandering acoustic tunes and one densely layered loopfest that calls to mind a less depressive Fursaxa. ISLAJA is a project led by Merja Kokkonen; on Palaa Aurinkoon (Fonal) she braids breathy overdubbed vocal melodies into melancholy strands that stretch across backdrops of Velvetsy guitar strumming, meandering keyboards, and peg-legged accordion dances. Reports from recent concerts indicate that live Islaja morphs into a much heavier guitar-bass duo churning out Krautrock grooves. LAU NAU's debut album, Kuutarha (Locust), is even more diverse and exotic, with a dying-campfire vibe that evokes Tuvan grasslands and Himalayan mountainsides as much as Karelian forests. On several numbers leader Laura Naukkarinen distorts her voice with walkie-talkie static; elsewhere she mingles clear, layered vocals with flutes to create a complex stream of pure sound that ripples across fields of gently plucked mandolin, vigorously sawed fiddle, and droning tambura. Live, Lau Nau is the duo of Naukkarinen and Antti Tolvi. These two shows are the last dates of a tour with Davenport and fellow Finn Tomutonttu. Some of the acts will play at a free in-store on Monday, September 19, 5:30 PM, at Reckless Records, 1532 N. Milwaukee; call 773-235-3727. Lau Nau headlines, Islaja plays fourth, Tomutonttu plays third, Kuupuu plays second, and Davenport opens. Sun 9/18, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, 21+, $8 in advance, $10 at the door.

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