Let’s go on an emotional roller coaster with the subarctic techno joikers and tell me about your feelings. Dallas Kalevala released their anticipated debut album. And this is a review that got slightly out of control.
Did you ever wonder how certain records would look like if they were movies? No? Me neither, but it struck me that this album would look like a futuristic remake of this one 1981 Czechoslovakian cult movie from Oldřich Lipský and I don’t really want to start reviews with shower thoughts. Enough that this won’t even be a proper review as I need to turn away from the concept of a classic “review”. It bores me.
It all starts here. Dallas Kalevala promise “a stimulated journey to the place where anomalies can happen…” – With a catchphrase like this, you could be in for anything. Literally anything. Seemingly, that’s the key to this record. You don’t know what’s gonna happen, you don’t know what to expect, you are unsure whether you should love or hate it. And finally, you’re uncertain whether you should be surprised or not. If you kept up with the previous single releases (Oh, you insider!) of Dallas Kalevala, then you probably know what I’m talking about. If not, you’re gonna find out soon. Walking into this without feeling a little bit anxious wouldn’t feel right. Let me tell you that.
First of all, this album consists of four parts. It’s some kind of a personal thing that came up the more I listened to this record. I didn’t care to name or describe these four parts – You’ll get the pattern eventually.
The first safe haven is represented by “Ass Of Icon” – We all remember when this was unleashed, right?
One of the first insights into the world of Dallas Kalevala just happened to tear you between two different vibes: “I’m-not-sure-if-I-should-like-it” and “This-is-just-what-this-world-needs-and-I-love-it”. No in-betweens. Nothing. Add a slightly NSFW video into the mix and there you have it. A provocative first impression that is hard to be forgotten. It feels like a punch into your face by your brother and then you realize you don’t even have a brother. “Ass Of Icon” = Iconic opener. A brilliant move.
Maybe you’ll start to think that everything you’ll hear on this record has its own symbolism behind it. It’s fine. Everybody comes up with non-relevant interpretations sometimes. That’s the cool thing about music.
The album takes its first drastic turn with “Animal Magnetism“. Let’s not talk about the hit-qualities of that song. It has everything a good song should have and it proved that this cool nordic duo doesn’t need to rely solely on shock-value that was brought to you with the previous track.
“Victimizer” (watch the video here, in case you’re new to this) introduced you to a more passive-aggressive, but yet still an overall accessible side of their soundscapes. “Victimizer” radiates with this sense of empowerment – You are ready to get out into the world and kick some ass. You’ll get it.
But why the hell am I feeling so cold about all of this until now? It’s not the fact that these first three tracks were released as singles in the previous months. It’s not the fact that I was already familiar with each and every song until now. What is it that makes me feel this way? We’ll never know.
What I know and remember is the reaction when I heard “Jackal” for the first time. I pretty much went like “Hold on and hold my drink… This is fucking amazing, let’s party!” although chances are that I might’ve heard this track live back in 2017, but I could be awfully wrong about that. I’m certain that I got to hear “Life Is Beautiful” live though – And no matter how much electrifying energy was behind “Jackal”, the next song managed to break it all down within the shortest timeframe possible.
“You piece of shit, you’re somebody’s reason to live…”
I don’t think I ever went from feeling euphoric to a total meltdown in such a short time and I don’t think I’m aware of what caused it. We’re five songs into this record and I already got to sob like the little pathetic and sensitive bitch that I am – Sometimes music gets relatable. I always feel a bit uneasy when that happens. “Life Is Beautiful” just felt a little bit too relatable at the moment. And so far, the arrangement on this record is unbeatable. Dallas Kalevala mixes all the more obscure/edgy elements of electronic music with some rock influences that are all-present throughout the album and make it sound like a brave new world. They call it stimulated, subarctic Pop music and the attitude is overwhelming.
In the past couple of years, you could follow this one little trend in the (not only) European music scene. Lots of Pop-duos emerged. We got at least three popular ones in Austria alone and they all sound identical. Sweden has one overly hyped group at the moment and even they sound like something that’s already been before them. I’m not the right person to talk about what makes Dallas Kalevala different – We’re in 2019 now. Everything has been here already and we’re all aware of that.
Dallas Kalevala still seem to be more future-oriented sound-wise. Their debut album actually sounds relevant in 2019. They do borrow some mid-80s Synthpop as well as some 90s Techno things here and there and maybe I’ll get to talk about it later on, but that is kept at a minimal level – There’s nothing retro on this record and they’re not trying to bring anything back.
Continuing the trip, we get to the 2nd dramatic shift that is brought to us by “A.L.C.O.H.O.L“, the most recent single. No matter how fun and anthem-like the primal industrial-meets-techno beat is, there’s something dark going on in the background…
“I hold a tiger inside of a bottle
He says I love you and I killed your father…”
That line made me think more than I ever wanted it to. The whole lyrical context invites you to go and think about what you heard – At least if you’re like me and look for hidden, deeper meanings behind everything you see and hear. Other than that, this track works just the same way as alcohol does. Remember your very first night out drinking? It never ended well, right? But you still come back to it and the more alcohol you consume, the more you like it and build your tolerance to it. When I first heard “A.L.C.O.H.O.L”, it reminded me more of an organized mess than a single. Did they really do that? Yes, they did. It was a hard pill to swallow. And once you do, it’ll make you want to break all boundaries. So turn the volume up. Blast it out. But please, don’t mix pills with alcohol unless you want to end up crying in the middle of Stockholm at 2 am while looking at the sea for no reason at all. Don’t be me.
And so we get to “Moon Makes Me Happy” – A complete opposite of pretty much everything you heard until now. The bass line is one of the most danceable ones since I-have-no-idea, the cowbell section screams “West End Girls” by Pet Shop Boys and I don’t know where the Michael Jackson vibes are coming from – Might as well be my own imagination. But anyway, I know this will sound a bit far-fetched and probably even biased, but… I think “Moon Makes Me Happy” could be one of the best Pop songs ever written in the past five years. It comes back to what Pop music used to sound like… You could have this one running on repeat and not get tired of it. And that’s what I call quality songwriting.
On a side-note: The live rendition of this track made my jaw drop, so… If you want to get into Dallas Kalevala and don’t want to get too involved, check out “Moon Makes Me Happy” first. It will… Make you happy. Hopefully.
With the next track coming up, I feel like this is a good time to remind you readers that the two gentlemen behind Dallas Kalevala, Ville Malja & Jussi Matikainen, are actually previously known from Lapko. This band is a chapter on its own and I promised myself to not to compare Dallas Kalevala to anything Lapko-related. Technically, you can’t even do it. I mean, you won’t find much to compare anyway. While that might be true for the eight other songs on this record, “A New Bohemia” and “Freedom” meet in the “Yellow Room“. They meet, but at the same time, they don’t. And indeed, the magic happens eventually… You just didn’t quite expect it.
Yellow seems to play a significant role on this record too, but let’s not start a full-on analysis here… I never intended to go this way…
You have a few seconds to make up your mind about everything you heard until now. Remember the first track and the way it opened up this record? Well, “So Young” brings that experience back in an unforgiving manner. You kinda want to run away from it, but there’s nowhere to go. But why would you want to run away anyway at this point? You can go and break the speed limits on the roads with this track playing in the background and not feel guilty about it. And no one’s gonna catch you anyway once things go down around the 2:44 mark. And there you have it, friends…
Nine different songs that are strong as standalone tracks, yet even stronger within this unit. Nine tracks that might be different from one another stylistically, but you’d still know you’re listening to Dallas Kalevala thanks to something that spreads out like a red threat throughout the entire record.
It might be the melancholic undertone that lingers every now and then, it might be the unmistakeable and superb vocal performance by Ville Malja. It might be something totally different, or it might be nothing at all.
This record came out at the best time possible. It’s up to date, it sounds like something that should be released in 2019, but it doesn’t really follow trends. It’s experimental, wild & fierce and the raw energy just drops from it – but it ain’t a record for everyone.
And that’s totally fine.
So congratulations, gentlemen. You did it. And we have faith in you. ✨
Now take a listen for yourself: