12 March 2014

Aurora Borealis - Aurora Borealis Parts 1 and 3

Label: Kalevala
Year of Release: 1997

I've been through the Kalevala story already in detail in this entry here, and that really gives you all the background you need. Ostensibly, these weren't records by 'real' groups as such, but disguised fantasy outfits created by Bill Drummond of the KLF to weave a peculiar narrative around the bewitching cultural niche of doomed, obscure bands and independent records (I can't see what the allure is myself. Whoever would waste a lot of time thinking about that, I wonder?)

Of all the releases that crept out on the bogus label, this for me was really the finest, and also the one where the mask slipped the most. Even in the press release, the fictional group were mentioned as being influenced by The KLF's "Chill Out" album, possibly one of the few instances in music history where an individual has listed his or her past work as the main influence on a record. The chirping crickets and Deep South Americana of "Chill Out" are here replaced by an icy, arctic kind of ambient soundtrack which in its own brief way is as wonderful as anything on that record.  And in truth, Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac is  a clear influence on this too (as he was on the album).  With its pounding drums and plucked strings, this is "Albatross" beginning an uncomfortable flight over the tundra. 

Unless somebody - and that 'somebody' is probably only Drummond himself - knows better, this also counts as being the last piece of original material he released.  As an exit point, its hopeless obscurity (only 500 copies were ever issued) damns it to insignificance, and yet it's a far better resting point than "F--k The Millennium" ever was. If you want to push an analogy to breaking point, those pounding drums and icy blasts seem almost funereal and the noise of a natural end of something, whether that would be the concept of Kalevala - this is the last single 'they' issued - or the terminus of Drummond's recorded musical career. 

This record was never really intended to be heard by many ears and I suspect Drummond is frustrated at having his plans thwarted, but it's already done the rounds on the Internet several times over, and I have no desire to let it die. It's too good for that.

I've placed "Part 3" first in the Box below as "Part 1" is really just one long, Finnish spoken word introduction - and if anyone is capable of translating it, please do let me know - but if you want to listen in the order of part 1 and part 3 (part 2 is missing entirely), that's up to you.


Anonymous said...

You say that the Kalevala releases were created in order "to weave a peculiar narrative around the bewitching cultural niche of doomed, obscure bands and independent records (I can't see what the allure is myself. Whoever would waste a lot of time thinking about that, I wonder?).
There was a little more to it than that. The records were the soundtrack to the Journey. Taking Elvis to the Pole. These were the records they heard on radio Mafia in the book "Bad Wisdom" - impossibly marvellous records recorded in the middle of nowhere in the Scandinavian Wastes populated by The Ice Bikers, Nazi Kung Fu Sex Bitches and Teenage Virgin Supermodels.
These records and their creation make sense in the dual narrative that makes up Bad Wisdom... but enter at your peril!

23 Daves said...

If I didn't mention Bad Wisdom in one of the Kalevala entries on this blog, apologies - I definitely meant to.

However, while the original intention was definitely to release these songs as part of a soundtrack album, plan B was certainly to let them slide out under the radar as obscure Finnish sounds. The press releases for these singles definitely make no mention of Bad Wisdom and instead try to sell themselves as something entirely separate from Bill and Zed.

Anonymous said...

All the Kalevala tracks were created to form a soundtrack to the book "Bad Wisdom". The soundtrack was made up of the songs the trio heard on Radio Mafia while taking their effigy of Elvis to the Pole which became The Lighthouse at the Top of The World.
I don't know how "Gimpo" by Gimpo, "Sexy Roy Orbison" by The Fuckers, the "Blizzard King" EP or "Candy" by Dracula's Daughter (featuring "Kristina Bruuk") could really be sold as something entirely separate from Bill and Zed? I saw Chris Brook touring with Bill and Mark when they were promoting the Bad Wisdom book.
I don't think there was ever any serious attempt to disguise who was behind Kalevala, however good the releases actually were! Even Probe put up a site for the label.


23 Daves said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
23 Daves said...

Possibly not a serious attempt, but the background narrative definitely shifted. The sales information sheets sent to record shops made no mention of "Bad Wisdom" or Bill or Zed at all and kept everything under an admittedly faintly ridiculous veil. The covering letter is in imperfect English and signed off by "Matti Virtanen", and the PO Box details of a British distributor called Finnmart UK are provided.

I have faxes of these and will try to find somewhere to scan them in when I get a spare five minutes.

Bill also claims in "45" that they did initially try to sell all the OST to major labels as genuine Finnish recordings by established acts, but everyone smelt a rat. Unsurprisingly, perhaps.

Anonymous said...

I had a friend give a listen to the spoken bit, and he says he thinks the spoken word bit is in a Sami language, though I wouldn't know, of course.

I guess this doesn't help. Sorry.

23 Daves said...

Well, thanks for trying!

Anonymous said...

Hi. I originally found these tracks back when the Internet was in its infancy - they were zip files sitting in a directory on some server. I found these two tracks somehow tagged as KLF, but with no other information really. They are some of my favorite tracks, and I felt I only vaguely knew their origin. Decade(s) later, I think to Google what I thought good search terms may be, and found this page. Finally, closure. Thank you for the information, and keeping the tracks alive. Limited ears indeed. Until seeing this post, it was like I had randomly found two gold nuggets just lying on the path, with no idea where they came from, or if there were any more.