Villa Nah Villa NahOrigin
On the cover of “Origin” two references come together: Manuel Sepulveda’s composition not only makes you to think of OMD, but also the pictorial tradition of geometric abstraction, very much in the line of Malévich. That may be why when you listen to Villa Nah’s songs, you can’t help but think of three geometrical figures dancing on a crude two-dimensional background. The first is a quadrilateral on which Kraftwerk are travelling with their soundtrack of the winter of the robotic era. Nearby floats a circle similar to the groups that we drew when we were little, a group that in this case contains all of that neo-romantic 80s synth-pop that ranged from OMD to Yazoo by way of The Human League and Pet Shop Boys. And lastly, wandering through the two-dimensional space with a parsimonious slowness, an equilateral triangle is the perfect home for Junior Boys, dusky atmospheres and their ability to take a tangle of synthetic wires and make it into a nest of emotions and sensuality. We have painted the picture, so now let’s get to the music.
In case anyone has missed the accumulation of references in the previous paragraph, Villa Nah’s sound should be circumscribed within the new synth revival that’s been coming to us recently. But the truth is that Juho Paalosmaa and Tomi Hyyppä don’t have half the promotional footwork done for them by being from New York or London, as can be deduced from their hard to pronounce names. They are from Finland, so it is inevitable to see the coldness of their sound reflected in the long winters of their homeland. But part of this iciness should be blamed on Jori Hulkonnen as well, who returned the favour from last year (Villa Nah were luxury guest stars in “ Re Last Year”, one of the hits on his last album) with a co-production that could light sparks on the tip of the world’s most frozen iceberg. That is the main achievement of “Origin”: being able to break the layer of ice that covers the Baltic Sea in order to allow a troupe of sea monsters to creep to the surface to breathe fresh air. In more cosmopolitan and less mystical words: if Junior Boys encapsulate that moment at three o’clock in the morning when you have taken somebody home with you that you just picked up, and are deciding whether you’d rather sleep it off or launch an attack, Villa Nah sounds more like the last songs that you would hear in the ideal discotheque right when the sun is coming up, bodies are tired, minds are drunk with emotional defeat, and yet in spite of everything, you still want to keep dancing.
The album is structured around a delicious string intro that factors in drama as an emotional constant (“ Time for Tea”), an interlude that calls to mind the soundtrack of any cybernetic film (“ Way of the Future”) and an end (“ Emerald Hills”) that sounds like The Radio Dept. with an extra dose of sound clarity. After the opening, “ Running On” uses the piano to establish emotional coordinates that will little by little broaden their horizon using synthesisers. What is clear from minute zero of this song is that the constant in “Origin” will be the romanticism of a voice that can sound warm in the middle of the Siberia without the need to resort to scorching. Emotion, yes. But pyromania - as little as possible.
Like a bullet-proof mathematical formula, all of the elements that Villa Nah lay on the table are perfectly pondered and adjusted to give an exciting result. And although there is a certain tendency towards monotonous homogeneity (which if they polish, will assure them of a well-rounded second album), the songs come and go from ballads that could jerk tears from an entire nation of clones (“ Autumn Gone,” “ Envelope”) to a succession of delicious danceable moments (“ Some Kind Of Dream,” “ All The Days,” “ Envelope”) that reach their peak just before the final closing: “ Rainmaker” is the superlative song that will open many doors (and some legs) for the members of Villa Nah. Listening to “Origin”, it is possible to predict a future in which the doors will open like a row of dominoes falling down one after the new forms. From geometric abstraction to geometric splendour, from 80s neo-romanticism to robotic emotion: from the Finnish party of two to charts across half of the world. Raül De Tena