Making sense of modern life
Flow Festival 2012

“Lykki Li” is not easy to pronounce. It isn't helped by the fact that there seems to be a myriad of ways to do so - all of which appear to involve some degree of confusion on the "y". The stress upon which is of the speakers preference. It is with equal intangibility that we find “the Finnish sound”. If loose consensus is to be believed such a sound is driven by nature and mood music rather than analytical concept and marketing friendly think pieces. This can be found in the work of Sami Sänpäkkilä, musician, label owner, artist, and curator of the Cirko stage. One current project, which he performs early doors to an audience beached out on those oversized cushions, that would be unbearably obnoxious had it not been for their comfort. On laptop and MPC the duo bring pastoral samples and the sounds of failing battery packs, creating a full spectrum of light and dark.

Houratron is both the most beguiling of Finnish artist and easily the most marketable. His territory is EDM - complex, beautifully produced EDM. It's hard to gauge what the natural progression for the bastardised US sub-genre/bloated uber-genre/aural plague currently spoiling the eardrums of Western youths. Perhaps, were they to give up the ghost on the whole bath salts thing, or even just cut back they'd discover the joys of Houratron, if not there's always God, he's popular.

The Splits exist at the more conventional end of the Finnish music scene. There's a wave of bands, also noting Black Twig (who we unfortunately missed), channelling US traditions of alternative rock. Whereas Black Twig carry the Sonic Youth sound The Splits are a female incarnation of The Dead Moon. There's the slack punk and scuzz, a sound so accessible their obscurity can only be put down to the Anglophile audiences facing the wrong way.

There were lots of international highlights, Dâm Funk, A$AP Rocky, Four Tet & Caribou DJing, and Chromatics, it was Africa Hitech that peaked the festivities. Over a passage that lasted the lion's share of their set the pair drove out relentless Afrobeat dripping in techno. As ill-defined as some of the music of Finland can be, it was the contrast with Africa Hitech's bold visions and powerful pulses.

The true mark of Flow festival is in the creation. With a phone company branded across the publicity, the phone app., and the site, it could be perceived to be as generic as they come. It's even tied to Way Out West and Øya with many of the international acts performing at all three across the week. With such behaviour increasingly commonplace, such moves are to be seen less as compromise, more modus operandi. A part of modern tradition, Pagan rituals 2.0, rolling out programming as daytime telly only interrupted by ad breaks. With the festival exponentially expanding, another necessary evil, the Woodlands stage featuring Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou Dahomey amongst exclusively curated projects such as Unela - whose idea that the audience are able to catnap, hence the large cushions provided - the festival neatly offers a rebuttal to all the above criticisms in that it creates, that it contributes to the production of art and music, something consumerism could never achieve. It is this play off that makes Flow Festival great. That rather than living in a pagan bubble, in its vague tonal, Finnish way, it helps make sense of modern life.

Words and photo by Samuel Breen

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