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Ever wanted to listen to electronic music and rock music?

Sadly, my experience of Usko itseesi (Believe in Yourself) was ruined by a friend who spoiled that, as a counterpoint to the acoustic Auto, the latest Sydän, sydän piece is very electronic. This was confirmed as I opened the jewelbox and noticed that the credits has "programming: Flyckt & Skopa" in them. The cover itself continues the theme of children, which has been the case since Auto. However, even after the surprise has been spoiled, the bleep-bloop-"COME ON" beginning of "Keskusta" ("Centre") was a blast in my face.

Title: Usko itseesi
Artist: Sydän, sydän
Label: Pyramid imprint of Johanna Kustannus
Catalog number: RAMCD 3155
Year: 2008

Sydän, sydän is one of the most interesting new bands of Finland. Their music is recognizable, but it doesn't seem to get old, especially as it changes album by album. As a live band, they've received attention for being fun, wild, fast and naked. Auto was acoustic and a bit folky(forgive me for not mentioning the older albums - haven't heard them). Au was more traditional, but like a light, easier-on-ears Mr. Bungle with the songs. And Usko itseesi...

So yes, I imagined it would simply be effect-laden, Lightning Bolt-style. But apparently, this was not quite enough. Few lines down from "programming":

Tomi Mikael Flyckt: Quasimidi Rave-O-Lution 309, laulu
Juho Minerva: E-MU Proteus FX
Mikko Rekonen: Boss DR-202 Dr.Groove, soolo
Tuomas Skopa: Microkorg, laulu

Needless to say: these are all electronic instruments, from synthesizers to grooveboxes. From the first beats of "Keskusta", you can tell: it doesn't matter. The song quickly builds up a great beat, and Skopa begins to sing about the city. It actually brings the Finnish electropop band Regina to mind with the everyday lyrics, the difference being that Sydän, sydän is unsurprisingly more aggressive. Vocoders also have their part. The song's a bit too crowded, though, and it could probably work with less. Another association is Mindless Self Indulgence, but the obvious difference is the lyrics, where Sydän, sydän is unsurprisingly a bit more adult — not to say "not fun", of course. Mindless Self Indulgence also uses traditional rock instruments, and their tempo is even higher. And the last namedrop, as an association: the SID chip.

The record label hypes: on the record, you will hear only computerized sounds, but it still sound like it was played by humans. The reason for this is also mentioned: The band recorded the songs on their own instruments, that is, the traditional guitars, basses and drums. After this, they were done again with the instruments that are usually used in electronic dance music, and the result was this record. The site also mentions that at gigs, the songs will be played with the traditional instruments.

"100 rikki" ("100 Broken") is probably the most aggressive electronic non-EBM (or other generic harsh electronic genre) song I've heard. The shouted lyrics most likely have to do something with it. It starts with "hey! hey! hey!" screaming and builds on to a heavy part that I can just imagine on a guitar. However, from there it builds to something more electronic, and Skopa begins to sing about snivel coming out of your head, your eyes swelling and that you're allowed to scream but not talk, jump but not walk - clearly he's talking about a gig? But when it comes to the part about burning Siberia, I don't really know.

"Jääs" ("In Ice") actually opens with something alike a rap intro, only that the crash is too rock-like. Then it goes into a bouncey sound and stream of consciousness-like ranting about the Bible, other known figures and not remembering things. Personally I consider this one of the weakest songs on the album. "Työtön paska" ("Unemployed Shit") begins with something that sounds like a technologically up to date theme from a platformer game on NES. The actual lyrics of the song tell about a battle between two men, and I imagine my interpretation of it would be way different if I didn't know the name of the song.

"Käykö täällä Visa Electron?" ("Do You Take Visa Electron?") is also another song that makes you dance, regardless of the pauses, until the slow parts. And then, it speeds up again. The chorus is also a catchy one and the rather personal-sounding lyrics (as Sydän, sydän's often are) are delivered in an interesting style. The slow parts are okay, but I would've reconsidered the ending. Mostly a good song. "Tutti frutti" continues with the dancey beats after the intro. The lyrics tell about an STD (or just a flu, but then I can't connect the first line to anything) and how it should be treated: Mikä tämän sai aikaan / Tämän sai aikaan rock'n'roll... Lifestyle! / Nuudelit kattilaan kiehumaan ja... KÄNNI PÄÄLLE! (What caused this / This was caused by rock'n'roll... Lifestyle! / Noodles to boil in the pot and... GET DRUNK!). In an equally catchy line, flunssa ei kaada rokkimiestä (a flu won't beat a rock man). I've mentioned it to foreigners that Sydän, sydän probably works only in Finnish, and these seem like good examples of what happens when it's translated. But hey, the main point was that these are catchy lines. Good song.

The first slow song of the album, "97-144" seems to be about some kind of a quarantine. The crash part doesn't work as well as in a rock song. Karsinamme pienenee / Päivä päivältä / Tuttuja naamoja ei näy missään / Kaikki ovat muuttaneet toisille maille / Jäljellä on enää tuoksu (Our pen is getting smaller / Day by day / I don't see familiar faces anywhere / Everyone has moved to other lands / Only the odor is left). Throughly backed by soft synth tunes, the song then goes on to tell about a bombed land and the high security of the pen. Olen kasvanut suojassa auringolta / Oloni on turvallinen (I have grown in cover from the sun / I feel safe).

"Valpurin yö" ("Valpuri's Night") begins with something alike a factory level in a platformer game, again. After a heavier part, the moody song continues with a more silent sound. The chorus urges us to get to work with an interesting drum beat in the background. It's also distinguished by the build of a bigger background unlike the rest of the song. There is a part where I can't control my rage (in English) is repeated: I consider it to be ironic, because it sounds just ridiculous. And, well, it does fit in the Sydän, sydän humour style. After this, a calm part tells about a naked venture through the city, and the end gets a speedy "hey! hey! hey!" — and fades out immediately.

"En tiedä" ("I Do Not Know") has that horrible sample... Or maybe a synth sound. I don't know what's it called, but its use maybe just and just works, because I appear to even stand it. The song is the second weak link on the album. "Tee jotain" ("Do Something") is a quite calm story of a person with a panic disorder. Tarvitsen vain ystävän, jonka kanssa voin hengittää aivan rauhassa (I just need a friend, with whom I can breathe in peace) is delivered with honesty and a good song. I use little words of this song, but it's definitively worth hearing. "Hullu tappaja" ("Crazy Killer") begins the end of the album with a slowly building intro, but at exactly one minute it gets to full speed and sounds like a final boss, to allude to video games again. The lyrics begin about a hard-working ant. Then it skips to the last death. And the ant is captured by a spider web! Great drama! Half a minute is still left as "Hullu tappaja" ends. The band launches into a chant of usko itseesi, accompanied by a silly electronic freak-outro.

A different rock record. Recommended even if you don't normally listen to electronic music. Actually... Recommended especially then. I hereby use the term "electrorock" to call this record. If this comes to regular use, I want my cred. Songs you should try if you have a chance to listen without buying the album are "Keskusta", "Tutti frutti" and "Tee jotain".

A review has judged the band for "changing for changing's sake": personally, this is not an issue as unlike the reviewer, I find Usko itseesi a new an interesting record. But yes, it does appear that the band can't stick with one theme, and has to devise a new one. In further albums, this may be a problem: for now, it stands.

For your enjoyment, a tracklist straight from the liner notes. Translations for the song names can be found collected over at the Sydän, sydän node.

                   cm    kg      bpm
Keskusta                         126
100 rikki                        126
Jääs                             104
Työtön paska                     108
Käykö täällä Visa Electron?      132
Tutti frutti                     100
97-144                            54
Valpurin yö                72/80/184
En tiedä                       76/72
Tee jotain                        63
Hullu tappaja                    138

Usko itseesi       12     0

Tomi Flyckt       184   100       63
Juho Minerva      187    84       55
Mikko Rekonen     173    54       65
Tuomas Skopa      169    74       79

Sydän, sydän - Entistä raskaampaa.

Listed on "to do this year": Go to a gig of theirs to see this live.
Also, the first print has apparently no barcodes due to an error during the printing. Brings Choking Victim's barcodeless records to mind, but apparently this is no punk act.

Believe in yourself.

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