Tag: Villa Nah (Page 1 of 6)

JORI HULKKONEN There Is Light Hidden In These Shadows

“For my 50th birthday I wanted to do something a bit special” said Jori Hulkkonen, “however, the list of realistic projects quickly narrowed down on yet another album. I did manage to invite some friends and heroes to be featured on it, though.”

With words and music written by the ace Finnish producer at his Alppi-Houz Studios PT in Turku, Jori Hulkkonen has assembled an impressive supporting cast including Ralf Dörper, Jake Shears, Jon Marsh, John Grant and Tiga for his new album ‘There Is Light Hidden In These Shadows’.

Although he released his first solo album ‘Selkäsaari Tracks’ in 1996 , it was with Tiga that Hulkkonen first found international fame as Zyntherius with an electroclash cover of Corey Hart’s ‘Sunglasses at Night’ in 2002. Since then, he has also worked with John Foxx, Chris Lowe and Casey Spooner, as well as doing numerous remixes for the likes of CLIENT and THE PRESETS. All this while having a number of projects on the go such as ACID SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, KEBACID, DRUMMAN, STOP MODERNISTS, PROCESSORY and since 2012, SIN COS TAN with VILLA NAH’s Juho Paalosmaa.

With over a dozen long players already to his name, Hulkkonen latest opus opens with ‘The Becoming’, a spacey ambient poem that sees Ralf Dörper of DIE KRUPPS and PROPAGANDA enigmatically offer his treated prose. With patterns accenting on the offbeats, ‘Under The Rug’ provides a stuttering trance piece voiced by the birthday boy himself but actually refrains from using any percussive attack.

‘Hard To Bite’ sees Hulkkonen partnered again with his most frequent collaborator of recent years, Juho Paalosmaa; over a speedy heartbeat, the SIN COS TAN and VILLA NAH singer provides his characteristic anguish over a moodily arpeggiated backdrop. Once the front man of SCISSOR SISTERS but now a solo artist on Mute, Jake Shears unexpectedly dials down his flamboyant falsetto for a deeper growl on the excellent avant disco lento of ‘May These Bruises Be My Only Tattoos’ while Hulkkonen provides its layers and hooks.

Continuing the mood with the surprise of jazz piano, ‘She’s A Hunter, I’m Just A Gatherer’ featuring Art Feynman (aka Luke Temple) plays with all manner of rhythmic textures but the cacophony of sound might prove confusing to some ears on initial listening. But recalling NEW ORDER when influenced by Ennio Morricone and locked to a baggy groove, ‘Fan Fiction’ sees the dulcet tones of Finnish singer Ty Roxy captivate over an expansive Spaghetti Western soundscape.

On the mellower filmic side with echoes of the previous Hulkkonen project PROCESSORY, ’Countless Other Lives’ sees Jon Marsh of THE BELOVED on one of his first released vocal performances since a guest appearance with WESTBAM in 2020. However, the body gets strong as a full-on dance workout makes its presence felt on ‘Cruise Control’ with Norway’s Naeon Teardrops, the new more electronica-tinged project of techno exponent Per Martinsen and it provides a punchy dynamic diversion from the other tracks on ‘There Is Light Hidden In These Shadows’.

Displaying Hulkkonen’s love of PET SHOP BOYS, hearing John Grant on a house-driven pop track like ‘I’m Going To Hell’ is pure joy on the final straight before he reunites with old mucker Tiga on the sparse cosmic ballad ‘When The End Comes’ which hypnotises via its sequencer passages and eerie soundscape before coming to a sudden end.

While not all of ‘There Is Light Hidden In These Shadows’ hits the spot and some tracks are perhaps too long, all are interesting to the ear and the production cannot be faulted. With a number of outstanding highlights, Jori Hulkkonen proves once again why he has been one of the best electronic music producers in Europe for nearly three decades.

‘There Is Light Hidden In These Shadows’ is released by Blanco & Tinto Recordings, available on the usual online platforms





Text by Chi Ming Lai
28 September 2023

Vintage Synth Trumps with SIN COS TAN

A contender for one of the best albums of 2022, ‘Living In Fear’ is SIN COS TAN’s most accessible and immediate body of work since their 2012 eponymous debut.

A prolific period between 2012 to 2015 saw the Finnish duo of Juho Paalosmaa and Jori Hulkkonen release three albums ‘Sin Cos Tan’, ‘Afterlife’ and ‘Blown Away’ in quick succession. But the creative intensity over took its toll and while the pair continued to work together on other projects, SIN COS TAN went into hiatus.

Paalosmaa returned to his other band VILLA NAH for 2016’s ‘Ultima’ album which Hulkkonen co-produced. Meanwhile Hulkkonen continued his solo career, releasing a number of solo albums, EPs and singles to continue a tradition in music making which had begun in 1995 and even hit the mainstream when as Zyntherius, he scored a 2002 Top30 UK hit with a cover of ‘Sunglasses At Night’ in collaboration with Tiga.

Inspired by the experiences of separation during the pandemic, a toe dipping exercise between Paalosmaa and Hulkkonen led to the ‘Drifted’ EP, the first SIN COS TAN material in six years. However with current world events and the bear next door looming like The Cold War had never ended, SIN COS TAN became creatively re-energised and presented their fourth album, the aptly titled ‘Living In Fear’.

Jori Hulkkonen took up ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s invitation to chat over a game of Vintage Synth Trumps about the making of ‘Living In Fear’ and the workings of SIN COS TAN…

So the first card is a Multimoog…

The thing about Moog synthesizers is I’ve always been a bit scared of them… I never felt like I was a keyboard player and I’m still the same. My approach to making music has always been programming and sequencing stuff in the studio, I always felt Moogs were more like a keyboards player’s synth, a more traditional instrument- like a violin. With the panel layouts, you could play it with one hand while controlling it with the other… it was made for live performance but I can appreciate that.

Also back in the 80s when I started out, you needed CV/gate to control the stuff and there were a few different systems. I preferred the systems that Roland were using… Moog was different from that so having the CV/gate stuff didn’t really support it. The Moog was also more expensive than Japanese equipment, they were always out of my reach. The Japanese stuff I had was very small and tight so not so great for the live environment but that wasn’t my thing anyway, especially back in the day.

I had this strange fear of anything Moog and they sound amazing and beautiful, I’ve heard them in other people’s studios and I’ve worked with Moog stuff, but I’ve never actually owned anything by Moog.

When the first self-titled SIN COS TAN album came out, social media photos had it placed in front of a Minimoog, who did that belong to?

That’s Tom Riski’s, the boss of our label Solina; he used to be in some bands in the 90s and he was a keyboard player and collector. He sold pretty much all of his stuff when he gave up being an active musician, but he still had that when the album came out. I did buy something from him *laughs*

You’ve mentioned fear, and this new SIN COS TAN album is called ‘Living In Fear’, how did you and Juho come up with the title?

This album came together rather quickly, the first session was in January this year and finished by the start of May as that was the deadline for mastering. There were some ideas and songs but at the time of recording, the Russia / Ukraine conflict started and obviously in Finland, that was a big thing. So we suddenly realised we could make that a motif for the album. It was Juho’s idea to call it ‘Living In Fear’ and that felt like it defined a lot of the songs we had there. The album even ends with a song called ‘War Time’.

There’s also a lot of commentary with the fears and pressure people have in this day and age from social media. Artists, what we are supposed to do these days is be like Instagram stars and promote our music online. But people like Juho and me aren’t into that, so it kind of scares us in a way. So that’s one level, another is the change in the world right now environmentally but another is the dawning of AI; Artificial Intelligence scares a lot of people, is it going to take away our jobs? It’s going to change a lot of things and funnily enough, we did an music video for ‘Endless’ which was AI based… a year ago, a video like that would have cost a million dollars and now AI is doing it for a few pennies.

Then of course, there are personal fears you might have and there are some quite personal songs on the album from Juho and me. Fear is a really strong motivation in people’s lives and we realise that was something that the album could reflect. It’s not a theme album as such, not like ‘Blown Away’ was. But it’s an album that does have a theme and something we wanted to focus on because it was there.

I can imagine in Finland, you have that 1200+ km land border with the Bear Next Door and on your website bio, it mentions how growing up, music was your escape from The Cold War, Chernobyl and imminent nuclear destruction… so in your head with everything going on, has it been like “NOT AGAIN!!”?

Definitely, but at the same time, it’s weird and probably not very healthy either, it feels kind of comfortable to be back in that same state of mind that you grew up in!! It’s like you grew up in not a nice place, but you get 20-30 years out of it and then you get drawn back into The Cold War state of mind. It’s where I come from and there’s nothing good about it, but somehow feels very familiar so you can handle it in a different way, compared to others. Our generation grew up with it and it’s interesting how the 90s generation grew up very optimistic and open, while the Millennials were free to travel all over Europe and suddenly it’s a big change.

I totally get where you are coming from, because where I live, it was the centre for UK missiles so was a nuclear target. As an ULTRAVOX fan, you will know ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’, ‘All Stood Still’ and ‘All Fall Down’ were songs about Armageddon while there were other similarly themed songs such as ‘Enola Gay’, ‘Fireside Favourite’, ‘I Melt With You’…

Yes, for us, it been like “well, it’s back to the norm”, it’s something we became accustomed to growing up in the 70s and 80s, it’s like the baseline…

Do you anticipate if this tension goes on any longer, it will affect the artistic expression? Do you see art as channelling that angst again?

I think I’ve been channelling that through the years anyway! *laughs*

But overall, this decade has been a real downer with the pandemic and now the war, so if we are trying to look for silver linings here, I think it will be interesting for the creative community to get something out of it, the frustration, the fears and all that. For sure, it’s going to do something for music, for the arts, for anything creative. It remains to be seen, it’s not going to happen overnight.

Like now at the end of 2022, people are starting to release all the music they did during the pandemic and the lockdowns, so now we are getting the pandemic music. Yes, some people released stuff during the pandemic but now we can play gigs and people can travel, so the records are coming out.

Something we discussed during the making of the album is, has the pandemic affected how we listen to music? Suddenly you’re stuck for 2 years at home, so do you listen to a different kind of music? Is it stuff to calm you down because you’re not in the mood for party music because there’s nowhere to go as the planet was closed! So did it change how people react to music, what kind of music they want to listen to? Did they dig up some old records for comfort? That remains to be seen, I hope there’s some real studies out of all this.

The return of The Cold War is going to be a big thing for a lot of Europeans. Obviously in Finland, we follow a lot of this but even though NATO is more or less involved in the conflict at some level, in America or Asia or Africa, this is like this local thing that’s happening in Europe. Let’s hope it says that way, we don’t want World War 3! I think the effect will also be local and probably affect the Scandinavian music and arts. There will be a big impact.

Despite the surroundings it was created in, ‘Living In Fear’ has turned out to be your most accessible album and possibly your poppiest as a form of escape? Any thoughts on that?

When we realised a lot the songs deal with pretty heavy issues as the lyrics were quite dark, we wanted to juxtapose that with some light production and make it chirpy even. I guess on our level, it’s light if you don’t look deep into it. I think it was the contrast of the lyrics and the easier approach of keeping the darkness inside, so it looks shiny and nice outside. But once you open the door, you realise it’s doom and gloom, it’s in there but not in your face. Only on a couple of songs ‘Not in the Business of Forgiving’ and ‘Killing Dreams’ did we let them drown on their way as they needed to sound heavy. But otherwise on the other tracks, we tried to keep it escapist, like that escapism of the 80s, the plastic innocence to hide the doom and gloom.

I’d like to highlight ‘More Than I Can Love’ which drops in ‘What Is Love’ and ‘Enjoy The Silence’, there is this Eurodance with melancholy thing about it?

Juho had this demo and it was leaning towards early 90s, my guide if there was a song that had the right balance of uptempo dance beat and melancholy was ‘Disappointed’ by ELECTRONIC. I was aiming that kind of driving Eurodance but with this classic UK synth indie pop melancholy, that was the lead idea. We wanted to avoid sounding too much like 90s Eurodance but also we didn’t want to do the ‘Enjoy The Silence’ thing. It was like a balancing act, you don’t want to sound like you are just ripping someone off or doing an 80s rehash. You try to sound modern while staying true to the essence.

With the music we do and the influences we have, there are no secrets, people know… if you listen to our records, whether it’s SIN COS TAN, VILLA NAH or my solo stuff, it’s easy to figure out where we come from musically *laughs*

It’s really interesting that the technology at the time back in the day was moving so fast… compare the records people were making in 1980 and then 1990, how they sound and how they were made, it’s one of the biggest shifts we ever had in music in terms of production. I always felt like there wasn’t enough time for this sound to be explored enough because people were already moving onto the next thing.

Famously John Foxx said samplers ruined music and in a way I kind of agree, although I also disagree as I think samplers are great. But at the same time, the period of late 70s synthpop like the early stuff of THE HUMAN LEAGUE, it would have been interesting if that level of technology had been around for 10 years. People would have had more time to really dive into that sound and the different possibilities it offered… but it was all going so quickly and suddenly it was digital and samplers, going to the next thing.

So records started to sound dated within a year or two which was crazy. Pop music today, I think in the last 20 years, there hasn’t really been a sound in the sense of “a sound that you haven’t heard”. Modern music doesn’t date as quickly as it did in the 80s, but I still feel there are so many things that you can go into a rabbit hole of listening to with the 80s, stuff that could have been explored more.

One cool thing nowadays is something like Spotify and YouTube because you can find ALL the records that you never knew but existed but I don’t have enough time. There is so much more stuff I hear from the 80s that I would have loved to have heard back in the day. I keep finding “new” old records almost weekly that came out sometime in the 80s that I like. That’s the thing, things moved so quickly and people moved onto the next thing, so those records never really had a chance.

When it comes to what kind of sound you are looking for in a song, I think there is an endless bowl. SIN COS TAN has been put into this category of “80s synthpop” and all that, but “80s synthpop” is so much bigger than a lot of people realise and there is so much to explore. There’s so many things that could have become the next big thing but they didn’t because of trends, technology or whatever reason, the pace was just so quick.

Talking of technology, time for another card and it’s a Yamaha CS60…

I had the CS60 and the CS80 which was the big brother, it was one of the biggest and most expensive synths that you can still find, if you can find one. The CS80, in the late 90s, my friend and I were still living up north and found one in really bad condition. The guy who sold it to us said according to the serial number, it once belonged to Stevie Wonder; I don’t know if it was true… but then he didn’t charge extra and we got it super cheap. Me and my friend were both just doing dancefloor stuff and the CS80 was more of a keyboard player’s synth, even more than a Moog.

We had it for a while and realised because of its size and its weight that we couldn’t go back and forth to our studios with it. So it was stuck in one place and not used that much. Later on when I had my peak crazy synth collection period in 2006-2007 and had a really big studio, I had a CS60 there and that I did use quite a bit. I was more comfortable with my keyboard playing by then. I used it on a lot of records from that period, we used it on the first SIN COS TAN album, solo stuff and productions for Tiga. It’s another keyboard player’s synth and one time, I had Jimi Tenor come to my studio as he was doing a gig in Turku. So he was playing it and I realised it really is not about the equipment, it’s about the idea and your ability to play an instrument, those are the ingredients.

The magic that Jimi was able to get out of the CS60, it was mind-blowing but also depressing in a good way because you see people who are super-talented at an instrument… I’ve always been more of a programmer and classic producer type where I’m not great at anything, but can handle a lot of things to put it all together and make little tweaks.

When you work with people like Jimi who are super-amazing at playing or with Juho and his voice, you are happy that you know them and get to work with them. So there are keyboard players that can make those machines come alive. When choosing a synth, you have to think “what can I get out of this machine or is it wasted on me?”

I remember there was this classic ‘Top Of The Pops’ where John Foxx did ‘Underpass’ and the band had like three CS80s on stage which was crazy…

So how important then was “synth image” to you as a fan getting into this type of music, where your favourite artist uses a particular piece of equipment?

That was everything! That was kind of the whole thing, when setting up my first studio, it was like living this childhood dream being surrounded by synths. So yes, for sure, growing up in the 80s and seeing these pictures, watching the videos and reading magazines and all that, it seemed so futuristic and out of this world, especially all the drum machines and synths.

In Finland, most of the music you heard and saw was uninteresting rock and heavy metal so you would be lucky if there was a keyboard or even a piano player in a band. So this futuristic world with keyboards, flashing lights, LEDs, computers and all that, for me that was Science-Fiction. It was a really big part of the appeal that got me interested in electronic music. I did like electronic music even before I realised what it was, so it all ended up enhancing all those ideas.

Another card and it’s a Korg Poly 6…

I never had one but I’ve had a lot of Korgs; the thing with Korgs is a lot of my friends had the MS10 or MS20 but I never liked the sound. There was something about that sound that I never really took to, I appreciate it as a synth and I like that it is semi-modular.

But it’s also on a different scale than the Rolands with all the CV stuff so it didn’t work that well with them, so that was one reason. I think it was also something about the filters that I never really loved. I used a Yamaha CS15 for that sort of stuff, it was similar but duophonic and it also has audio-ins so you could use the filter and the filter was smoother than the Korg MS stuff.

Of the Korg polyphonic stuff, I hit the jackpot 20 years ago at an amazing synth store in Stockholm called Jam, the guy running it Johan was amazing and we became really good friends. I used to go there quite a bit. They are still going strong, I love them.

In Finland, we never had really good synth stores for vintage stuff. Although we are neighbours and Finland is bilingual with Swedish being our second language, the culture is so different when it comes to pop music. I was fortunate living in the north of Finland, I was close to the Swedish border so grew up with Swedish radio and TV.

In Sweden, they have an amazing scene with synthpop and electronic music, even from the 70s and 80s. There was so much stuff and variety and that’s how I discovered a lot of music. In the Swedish language, there is even a word “Syntare” for a person who listens to synth music and Italo disco. So I’ve always had really close relations to Sweden and because they had such a big culture in electronic music, there was more equipment going around. When I went there for the first time, it was like “WOW!”.

What did you buy at Jam?

I got this Korg PS3100 which is like a blown-up MS20; it had a patch bay and was semi-modular but a 48 note polyphonic analogue synth! It was again made for keyboard players but because of the semi-modularity, you could control the gates and outboard gear. So that became the staple of my sound for 15 years; I used it on so many records for the polysynth pads.

The Korg Poly 6 was one of the last of the analogue polyphonics of the 80s, I’ve had a lot of the drum machines and I had the Mono/Poly so I’ve had a lot of Korg stuff. Again, the Japanese stuff was cheaper to buy than Moog or Oberheim…

It’s interesting what you say about not getting on with the MS10 as Juho has one and used it in VILLA NAH who you co-produced…

VILLA NAH love the MS10 and they used it on the ‘Origin’ album, it was one of the key synths for their lead sounds and solos. It was fine by me; they get exactly the sound they want and it fits with their music. Me personally, it was never the kind of synth I wanted to have.

I take it that Juho might be less of a tech-head than you are, so within the dynamic of SIN COS TAN, does he stop you from going too far with that and gets you back on track with the song?

It’s a totally different hat that I’m wearing when I’m a producer for an artist. But when I’m working in SIN COS TAN with Juho, then it’s a band so it’s my project as much as it is Juho’s. However, when it comes to working for others, you forget about your mixed feelings about the MS10 and you embrace what they can do with that *laughs*

I really like the idea of having these different roles when it comes to making music, it really is a big part of the fun with a project. Even when I make stuff with Juho as SIN COS TAN, there really is this moment where I decide I’m not going to be the guy who writes music with Juho, I will be the producer and mixer and now take a different approach. I change the perspective that I have on those songs and it’s something that I learned when people have approached me to work with them. Remixing and producing other people are totally different animals but there is something similar. I like the idea where people reveal their music’s secrets to you in the studio, whether it’s a remix or a production to make it work on the dancefloor or whatever.

That’s always been super-fascinating and again, we get into the cool things and the modern age where things on like Spotify, you can listen to classic records that are re-released as boxed sets where they have demos and works-in-progress. The idea of these different stages of a journey that a song takes, that really intrigues me infinitely as a musician, producer and fan. I don’t want to necessarily buy all these records and in some cases, there is stuff that I don’t even like, but I like to be able to hear how the demo became the song.

It’s nice that people are putting all this stuff out, like a cassette demo of the just-written song, then the band comes in and there’s a version with a producer that didn’t work out, and the remixed version that works, that is so fascinating.

You’ve always struck me as being a music fan first and professional producer or musician second…

For me, being a music fan is the No1 priority, that is what I am foremost… everything else is a category under that. Being a music fan is where it all comes from and that’s still how it is.

‘Own The Night’ from the album is very film noir and for Halloween, you synchronised it to the 1922 version of ‘Nosferatu’… did you already have images in your head while making the song?

That was another demo that Juho had, but it was clear from the first draft that I had this idea of how it needed sound. If there is a song on the album that sticks out as not being within the ‘Living In Fear’ theme in the more serious sense, then it’s ‘Own The Night’. It’s slightly tongue-in-cheek especially with the video and vampire, it’s was some very subtle comic relief. We were trying to strike a balance, like in the intro where Juho is doing the deep “hmmm-hmmm-hmmmmm” voice, there’s 16 tracks of him doing this gothic choir thing and then there’s the build up with the harpsicord, it sounded super funny. But at the same time, we didn’t want to push it too much so that it didn’t sound too comedic. We didn’t want it to come across as cheeky or too light-hearted.

‘Own The Night’ reminded me of Ennio Morricone, I don’t know if that is a suitable reference?

Yes, it is overtly dramatic like a lot of the Morricone stuff with all these changes before the big chorus. It does have that classic Morricone feel to it, it was one of the toughest songs on the album to get right. From the original demo, we knew it had a lot of potential. At the same time, the execution needed to be punchy enough for the dancefloor but to keep that ethereal spooky atmospheric thing that controls the vibe, it was all about the balance.

This has made me think of PET SHOP BOYS ‘It Could Happen Here’ which used a section of that Morricone track ‘Forecast’ that had that almost comedic Bowie-esque vocal by BLIZZARD…

Well for me, I am obsessed with both PET SHOP BOYS and Ennio Morricone, so they are always in the back of my head whenever I make music, especially when I do stuff with Juho where we go for this extra flair or drama, these things do come out….

‘You Again’ is a good example…

Yes, that was like HI-NRG mixed with this Morricone-ish riff, it was upper dramatic with the verses and then there were his upbeat, uplifting chorus and dark lyrics for this contrast before the ending focussing on the violin riff building up. It’s a mixture of PET SHOP BOYS and Morricone, but one particular song that also came to my mind when making it was ‘Sounds Like A Melody’ by ALPHAVILLE which also has this outburst of energy in the outro as well.

Was ‘Tightroped’ influenced by DAFT PUNK or is that just in my head?

It’s in your head… but then again, DAFT PUNK is in our heads as well so… *laughs*

‘Tightroped’ was based on a track we started 5 years ago… although we had this break where we didn’t release anything, we had some studio sessions every now and then. But things never really clicked to make us go “WOW”, there were some good bits but it never crossed that threshold to make it continue and work towards an EP or album.

Then when we started this album, there was stuff we had never used and ‘Tightroped’ had this synth riff that I couldn’t even recall when we first did it! We didn’t remember it, it was like “Is that us? Yes, it’s us!”. The track was this downtempo John Carpenter thing, so I decided to disco it up which is something I always do when we go to a dead end with a song, like I did with ‘Trust’ which was originally downtempo. So it was time to put on a four-to-the-floor kick and not exactly do an Italo disco, but more late 70s Patrick Cowley track with live sounding drums. That opened up a lot of doors for it and then I came up with the chord change for the middle part and there was a new lyric, it kind of clicked. So it’s like retro disco that was fun to put out there.

I’ve always liked the way how you’ve never been afraid of disco, either saying it or doing it…

I do a lot of dance and club music, if you do like dance and club music, you have to love disco and even though I started my career in house and techno, you have to acknowledge there is the legacy of disco. There’s so much stuff in house music that sounds fresh and futuristic, especially when it comes to crossing into more electronic stuff like Patrick Cowley or Gino Soccio… even today, their records sound ahead of the time.

I was never a big fan of the orchestral disco, it was always the more minimal stuff where it is all about the groove and basslines with minimal changes and gradual growth as well as the more electronic end of it. Yeah, those records defined my taste in music.

Another card and it’s the Korg 800DV, otherwise known as the MaxiKorg, Dave Ball from SOFT CELL had one of these…

This would have been designed to sit on top of your organ where you would do chords on that and this would be the lead synth to do these melodies. Synths from this period, they were more aimed at this market so were slightly cheaper. That meant these types of synths were on a lot of interesting records that came out in the late 70s and early 80s. It was like a synth to add one layer or one riff or whatever.

What I love about this era was that each band had a particular sound because they could only afford one or two synths but they were explored more…

Yes, this is something I don’t think has been looked into in the documentaries… this will not sound very nice but there is too much credit being given to the people making the music, because a lot of the music was being made by equipment around at the time. The fact that people had their hands on 2 or 3 synths and they were at the mercy of these synths (not the other way round) and the records couldn’t sound like anything else than what the technology allowed at the time. So it was really about the imagination of the artists to abuse them and get the most out of them… it really was within the constraints of what the technology was at the time.

So I think the technology was what defined that music as much as the people who were making the music and it was true during that period, as it was later when techno came around. The records that people made were amazing but at the same time, if you get those certain pieces of equipment and you understand a thing or two about music and you know how things work, it’s very easy to get that sound, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to get that great record. But the sound came from the equipment…

So are we talking Korg M1 piano here? *laughs*

No, we are talking about more about drum machines like the 808 or 909, the TB303 in acid house… things are defined by certain pieces of equipment. Like you couldn’t make a proper techno record if you didn’t have an 808 or 909. You really were kind of forced to have them or a sampler that could emulate a lot of that. If you had money, you could get the right equipment but that doesn’t mean you are going to make a great records because you still need to have some great ideas. But you could make these types of records without the equipment, you need the right drum machine to get the right dynamic in a club, you just can’t unless you have a million dollar studio with an engineer to make your record.

What I’m saying is the advent of the 808 or 909 enabled people to make a record in their bedroom that sounded good in a club, that for me was the big difference. It enabled dance music to become more direct for the people that were going to clubs, then going home and doing a record in their bedroom that sounded good in a club.

Obviously today, you can do anything with a computer so that has changed. But there was a brief period of time where you really did need to have certain pieces of equipment in order to make a dance record, regardless of how talented you were or what ideas you had or how great the songs were that you wrote. You couldn’t make a good dance record without a good drum machine. We sometimes forget the engineers who put all this stuff together … there was this documentary ‘808’ for example where even I was being interviewed, people are realising how hand-in-hand the technology and the changes in pop music just went super-fast in the 80s *laughs*

The final card is the EDP Wasp…

I never had one and I know there is a new version by Behringer… what makes the Wasp sound so interesting is the filter, so it’s on my modular system. I have an emulation of the Wasp filter, and I love the sound of it. But I think this was a really interesting time in the late 70s when these small UK and European companies doing these more limited weirder synths like the Wasp with its touch sensitive keyboard and Italian companies like Crumar that sounded different. There was this weird niche where people would be wanting something but couldn’t afford the American or Japanese stuff and would go for the weirder local products which adds something. I know in Finland, people had a lot of Russian stuff…

Oh, like the Polivoks? Did you have one?

Yes, I had one and I had a Faemi which was also Russian… so having stuff that’s not in the usual synth canon was great. There was a UK company that would sell synths as DIY kits and I got this CLEF B-30, a crazy, unpredictable little synth…

The kit company I remember in the UK was Powertran who made the Transcendent 2000, Bernard Sumner, Thomas Dolby and Ian Craig Marsh all had one…

There were a few different ones along with PAiA and I had a few of those, constructed by different people and put in different boxes, all sounding totally different and unreliable… you wouldn’t have wanted to go on stage with one! But in the studio, they were amazing and would provide those happy accidents. It was great that you didn’t know quite what was going to happen… the Wasp falls in some level into that category, with these giant companies doing their thing while these small companies doing their weird synths that are more punk in a way.

What’s your favourite synth that we haven’t mentioned yet?

I don’t know if it’s true, but I have a Roland Jupiter 4 which apparently used to belong to Simon Le Bon! The guy who sold it to me didn’t ask for anything extra but he said he bought it from him. I might as well continue my blissful life thinking that it is and for that reason, it is my favourite synth, if only because I get to share this story *laughs*

Otherwise, I don’t have any favourite synths, I had so much stuff over the years, I’ve come to appreciate them all, every synth I have ever owned or still own, had a purpose. They all do their own thing and they all inspire in a different way.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Jori Hulkkonen

‘Living In Fear’ is released by Solina Records as a limited edition vinyl LP and download





Vintage Synth Trumps is a card game by GForce packed with facts and statistics that features 52 classic synthesizers, available from

Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Rainer Geselle
23rd November 2022

SIN COS TAN Living In Fear

After a low-key return with the ‘Drifted’ EP in Autumn 2021, SIN COS TAN are fully back into their creative stride with a whole album of new material under the title of ‘Living In Fear’.

While ‘Drifted’ saw the Finnish duo of Juho Paalosmaa and Jori Hulkkonen inspired by the experiences of separation during the pandemic, with current events and the bear next door, ‘Living In Fear’ will resonate with anyone resident in Finland or anywhere in the civilised world. The premise of the fourth SIN COS TAN album is “Do you fear the dark, love, war, or yourself? Whatever the answer, you can be certain: Fear is a powerful thing.”

It was with Juho Paalosmaa’s other band VILLA NAH that Jori Hulkkonen first worked with his SIN COS TAN partner as co-producer; that 2010 album ‘Origin’ released had magic all over it and led to Paalosmaa and his VILLA NAH partner Tomi Hyyppä opening for OMD on the ‘History Of Modern’ tour. While VILLA NAH finally released a follow-up ‘Ultima’ in 2016, Paalosmaa and Hulkkonen had a chemistry that needed an outlet so SIN COS Tan came into being around 2012 as a “synthesized duo of great promise, broken dreams, and long nights”.

The ‘Living In Fear’ album has a rhythmic sub-PET SHOP BOYS opener in ‘You Again’ although it maintains a flighty chill while boosted by a catchy chorus that acts as a burst of escapist optimism. ‘More Than I Can Love’ enters housey Europop territory with ‘What Is Love?’ as a reference in particular, but the deeper drawl provides the offset like Haddaway doing ‘Enjoy The Silence’ with a Nordic twist. Meanwhile the windswept electro-motorik of ‘Endless’ uses the melodic synthy highs of OMD to counter the melancholic expression and drone laden backdrop.

Taking in a moodier introspection, ‘Live For Today’ opts for a crystalline midtempo diversion but ‘Tightroped’ offers a throbbing disco-friendly excursion with elements of DAFT PUNK, although a tormented voice captures the localised anguish. However with that storm in the air, ‘Own The Night’ takes a film noir approach coupled to multi-layered rhythm construction.

‘Killing Dreams’ is moody and almost AIR-like, the nocturnal atmosphere recalling SIN COS TAN’s eponymous debut but with more of a groove but ‘Solitaire’ takes atmospheric IDM elements for a smoky drifting sensation while chugging wonderfully like a locomotive that features gorgeous bursts of synths and a haunted vocal refrain reminiscent of 2012’s ‘Trust’.

Taking things down a touch, SIN COS TAN are ‘Not In The Business Of Forgiving’, but the closing number ‘War Time’ applies an array of keyboard motifs and a primitive drum machine for a strident theme climaxing with barrels of cinematic arthouse drama.

A prolific period between 2012 to 2015 saw the release of the ‘Sin Cos Tan’, ‘Afterlife’ and ‘Blown Away’ albums as well as the ‘Smile Tomorrow Will Be Worse’ EP, so applying that much creative intensity over such a short period of time was bound to take its toll. But after the toe dipping exercise of ‘Drifted’, it is clear that the hiatus has re-energised Paalosmaa and Hulkkonen. The end result is that ‘Living In Fear’ is SIN COS TAN’s best and most accessible body of work since their 2012 eponymous debut.

‘Living In Fear’ is released by Solina Records as a limited edition vinyl LP and download





Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Rainer Geselle
21st October 2022


SIN COS TAN, the “synthesized duo of great promise, broken dreams, and long nights” return with a new EP after a six year absence.

Entitled ‘Drifted’, the Finnish pairing of Juho Paalosmaa and Jori Hulkkonen were inspired by the experiences of separation and resignation experience by most during 2020. “We had numerous discussions about doing something again with SCT over the years, but they never came to fruition” said Paalosmaa, “I think the whole COVID thing, in all its trouble, gave us the pause we needed in our lives for SIN COS TAN to make sense again”.

But Paalosmaa added ”Finns, as people, are quite well adapted to handle isolation. We’ve been doing that voluntarily for centuries already. Nevertheless, it’s still been a challenge at times.”

With three albums ‘Sin Cos Tan’, ‘Afterlife’ and ‘Blown Away’ already to their name, the last SIN COS TAN release was the dance focussed EP ‘Smile Tomorrow Will Be Worse’ in 2015. At around 7 minutes, ‘Disconnect’ recalls the nocturnal moods of the self-titled debut while strident piano makes a surprise appearance towards its dramatic final third. With a more metallic and danceable pace, ‘If I Was Gone’ is reminiscent of more uptempo SIN COS TAN material such as ‘History’ with crystalline synth tones and magnetic IDM vibes.

‘Unconditional’ exudes a hypnotic atmospheric groove with an emotive vocal delivery from Paalosmaa in a manner that is classic SIN COS TAN. “It’s really about the poison of absoluteness” clarified Hulkkonen, “and how doing things strictly your way can erode a lot of good will around your life”; it is undoubtedly a lesson for all. Almost funereal, ‘True To You’ captures the resignation and isolation where an e-Bowed guitar simulation played on a synth comes as the unexpected dressing to the largely instrumental template and doing as the EP title suggests.

A welcome return that is not short of drama or intensity, ‘Drifted’ sees SIN COS TAN dipping their toes in the water again after their hiatus. Once they fully hit their creative stride again over a long playing format, there is sure to be even more excellence to come in the vein of songs like ‘Trust’ and ‘Moonstruck’.

‘Drifted’ comes out on September 24th 2021 via Solina Records as a limited edition vinyl 12″ and digital release via https://ffm.to/yvzwrdn




Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Rainer Geselle
21st September 2021

A Short Conversation with SIN COS TAN

Juho Paalosmaa and Jori Hulkkonen are back as SIN COS TAN after a six year hiatus.

The Finnish synth duo opened their account in 2012 with a nocturnal self-titled ‘Sin Cos Tan’ album which included the magnificent “disco you can cry to” of ‘Trust’. The second album ‘Afterlife’ in 2013 added more colours and a collaboration with Casey Spooner of FISCHERSPOONER on the electro-new wave of ‘Avant Garde’.

Released in 2014, the third SIN COS TAN long player ‘Blown Away’ was a concept album about the fictional middle aged banker Michael Burana who following his divorce, becomes a drug courier and gets involved in a life of crime before his story comes to its inevitable conclusion when he is ‘Blown Away’ in the ‘Heart Of America’.

The last SIN COS TAN release was the three-track dance focussed EP ‘Smile Tomorrow Will Be Worse’ and although the pair worked together on ‘Ultima’, the 2016 second album from Paalosmaa’s other project VILLA NAH, the upcoming ‘Drifted’ EP will be their first new material as SIN COS TAN since 2015, inspired by the experiences of separation and resignation during the worldwide pandemic.

Juho Paalosmaa and Jori Hulkkonen chatted to ELECTRICITY CLUB.CO.UK about becoming ‘Drifted’ and returning from the wilderness as SIN COS TAN.

SIN COS TAN had been extremely prolific with three albums in three years, how do you look back on that catalogue of work produced in such a short time?

Juho: Looking back on it now, I’m honestly kind of surprised at how much of it still holds up. We were on a creative roll, but still managed to stay quite focused. It’s strange to listen to something you’ve done years ago and genuinely feel like you’re discovering it in the process.

Jori: Very proud of those albums. And, even though they were done in a relatively short period of time, they each really stand on their own and have a specific sound to them. I don’t really listen to my own music, but earlier this year I went through the full SCT catalogue as we were preparing our first live show in six years, and was really surprised how well the material has aged. But I guess that’s the advantage when you make retro sounding – or as I like to say, timeless – music.

Had there been any particular reason that after the concept album ‘Blown Away’, you opted for a more dance-oriented EP ‘Smile Tomorrow Will Be Worse’ as its follow-up in 2015?

Juho: We felt like we really went out on a high (no pun intended) with ‘Blown Away’. The downside is we really had a hard time thinking of how to pick up after it. ‘Smile…’ was the result of that conundrum: we just wanted to do something very different after our last album.

Jori: Exactly. I personally felt we had peaked creatively on ‘Blown Away’ on so many levels, that doing another album felt a bit overwhelming at the time. However, we still had the drive and ideas for songs, so we decided to take a slightly different approach.

Although you both worked together on the second VILLA NAH album ‘Ultima’ in 2016, what was the impetus for producing new SIN COS TAN material?

Jori: We’ve had some get-togethers at my studio all through the years, with the intention of starting something, and there’s a bunch of demos that never quite made the cut, or got us excited enough to finalise a release. So there never really was a real break creatively, just a slight exhaustion from the three albums and an EP run, and personally I felt the bar was pretty high after ‘Blown Away’ especially. I guess it took some time for us to find the same loose vibe for writing songs together again.

Juho: We had numerous discussions about doing something again with SCT over the years, but they never came to fruition. I think the whole COVID thing, in all its trouble, gave us the pause we needed in our lives for SIN COS TAN to make sense again.

How have you both been handling the enforced isolation of the lockdown, have your perspectives changed?

Juho: As much as anyone’s, I suppose. This kind of experience is bound to highlight the importance of certain elements in life, and the absolute superficiality and uselessness of others. But Finns, as people, are quite well adapted to handle isolation. We’ve been doing that voluntarily for centuries already. Nevertheless, it’s still been a challenge at times.

Jori: I’ve handled this very poorly, but it’s still been better than normal life.

Did some of your experiences during lockdown affect your creative dynamic as SIN COS TAN? Was there more remote working than in the past with consultations on Zoom etc?

Jori: Not really, we still write some stuff separately, but the main magic happens always when we’re in the studio together just bouncing ideas.

Juho: Not really with the recording part, we were able to do all the recordings of ‘Drifted’ in a few days at Jori’s studio. But any rehearsing for live stuff has been completely different. We basically don’t meet at all, Jori lives in Turku and I live in Helsinki. We’re about 150km apart. So, we rehearse on our own and meet on-stage for the live show! It’s a bit mad. We’ve done it just once so far at a Finnish festival, but it went down surprisingly well…

The opening song ‘Disconnect’ from ‘Drifted’ recalls the nocturnal moods of your self-titled debut but piano makes a surprise appearance in the track’s final third, what was the idea or inspiration behind this?

Jori: The song came about when we were just jamming on top of this groove I had nicked from a Finnish new wave 12” from the 80s; basically I just sampled a drumbreak from it while playing the maxi single at 33rpm, and programmed the rhythm part around that. Then we just started layering things on top of it. Towards the end, we felt it needs to build up for a proper pay-off, and I can’t remember which first hit upon those pianos, but it seemed to do the trick.

Juho: No particular inspiration, it just felt like the right thing to do at the moment. You come up with ideas that flow with the track and match the tension or mood you’re creating. Spontaneity is essential when creating music.

Another new texture comes on ‘True To You’ which is primarily instrumental and throws in some E-Bowed guitar, was this quite tricky to nail down during recording?

Jori: Oh that’s all synth on the track. That lead sound was a bit of a placeholder for a vocal idea to emerge, but eventually it grew up on us, and realised it works better with this really sparse arrangement.

‘If I Was Gone’ is more typical of SIN COS TAN’s uptempo material with its IDM vibes, do you find yourselves still inspired by the dancefloor despite getting older?

Jori: Age has nothing to do with dancefloor really. I think with SCT, we have a few key approaches to how we frame a song. This particular track is based on Juho’s demo, and I immediately knew how it should sound.

Juho: ‘If I Was Gone’, as a song, could’ve also easily been a ballad. I originally wrote it on guitar as a slightly slower version. But it felt right to give it more tempo and pizzazz, and Jori had an Italo vision for it that worked out nicely with the lead melody.

‘Unconditional’ has a particularly emotive vocal delivery, what is the song about and is it autobiographical?

Jori: This again was based on a demo I had made, that had some placeholder lyrics from me, which Juho changed completely but kept the feel of the delivery and melody. It’s a really nice example of how we complete each other’s ideas.

Juho: It’s really about the poison of absoluteness, and how doing things strictly your way can erode a lot of good will around your life. I suppose all the tracks on ‘Drifted’ are autobiographical – lyrically, they’re quite a direct response to things I’ve experienced over 2020 and before.

Equipment-wise, are you using any new toys or are you sticking to your trusted tools? Do you have any thoughts about these clone vintage instruments that Behringer are making or the way synthesizer technology is heading?

Juho: No new toys on ‘Drifted’, as far as I know… I’m not a gear head, but I’ve started to come around to plug-ins over the years. They’re simply so high-quality nowadays that it’s hard to argue for a massive collection of synths, either in economic terms, or simply in the space that they require. At the end of the day, I still feel that the songs themselves matter the most: it’s easy to lose yourself in a sea of plugins, apps and synths, but none of those matter if the songwriting sucks.

Jori: This was actually the first SCT release to emerge from my current studio, after relocating in 2016. However, the main equipment – hardware and software – are the same. I don’t think I’ve bought any new gear in years, I’ve completely gotten over GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), and really been just focusing on ideas and their execution with the stuff I have. It’s all about efficiency. At the same time, I do follow all these amazing new and rebooted versions of classics that keep hitting the market. I mean, what’s not to love?

‘Drifted’ is an EP that captures a specific moment, but do you see yourselves working on a long playing record again in the future, does the album still have a place in modern music consumption?

Jori: For SCT in the future, yes, but for the moment we feel the EP as a format is something that works best for us. Generally speaking though, I do love albums; most music I’m into these days requires that extended timeframe to pass on the ideas and textures, something that the single or EP formats simply can’t deliver.

Juho: I think albums still certainly matter and always will. My favourite records are often LPs. But it also feels quite liberating to do an EP as well. They allow for a more concise vision and give way for variety in the future as well. The idea of an entire LP can feel daunting at times. An EP, on the other hand, just sounds like fun. It’s like a great miniseries on HBO that never outstays its welcome.

Jori appeared in ‘808 – The Movie’, are there any music documentaries or other series you have both been enjoying that you would like to recommend?

Juho: I already told this to Jori, but I’ve really enjoyed some of Tiga’s ‘Last Party on Earth’ podcasts recently – particularly the episode with Trevor Jackson, which goes beyond of just DJs talking about their craft. Tiga is a great host, he’s funny as hell and has a pleasant voice for radio.

Jori: I did the intromusic and jingles for the Tiga podcasts, by the way. Anyways, I actually haven’t seen it yet, but I’m really looking forward to the Edgar Wright’s SPARKS documentary.

What are your hopes and fears as the world re-emerges from a difficult 20 months?

Jori: I don’t think it will re-emerge for a long time, so I have no hopes really.

Juho: Hoping it re-emerges as a better version of itself. Fearing that it most likely won’t.

What’s next for the two of you, both as SIN COS TAN and individually?

Juho: Hopefully more SCT in the future, but it all depends on how we’re feeling about it. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Music will always play a part in our individual lives, regardless.

Jori: Like Juho mentioned earlier, we played our first SCT live show for almost 6 years just a couple of weeks ago, and it was really fun, so that got us talking as to where to head next. Time will tell if any of those plans materialise at any point. As for me personally, there will be new Jori records popping out here and there. As always.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to SIN COS TAN

Special thanks to Tom Riski at Solina Records

‘Drifted’ comes out on September 24th 2021 via Solina Records as a limited edition vinyl 12″ and digital release, pre-order from https://www.8raita.fi/shop/p96178-sin-cos-tan-drifted-12-en.html




Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Rainer Geselle
22nd August 2021

« Older posts