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Villa Nah - Origin


Keys of Life

There’s always something thrillingly pure about Scandinavian music - as if the crisp ice of the almost ever-present cold permeates its way into the recordings. Space,  and crystal-clear clarity are at the heart of many productions from this part of the world, from Sally Shapiro to the electrical static of Mika Vainio.

Villa Nah are no exception either - this stark, classical synthpop piece is straight out of the pop music textbook, taking its dues from the likes of grandfathers such as OMD and Heaven 17 as well as more energetic contemporaries such as the Junior Boys and The Knife. Duo Juho Paalosmaa and Tomi Hyyppa have had this, their debut album, co-produced by Jori Hulkonnen, whose prolific output as a tech-house producer brings a modern dancefloor feel to matters.

Like the aforementioned Junior Boys (opener “Running On” sounds a little too similar for my liking) the first thing apparent is the strength of Paalosmaa’s voice, as he belts out his lyrics and choruses with an insouciant abandon. “Ways to Be” is unadulterated synthpop, the stark melodies contrasting strongly against the vocal line. He can certainly flex his chords, as “Some Kind of Dream” alternates between whispers and an assured cry. What becomes quickly apparent however is a lack of real identity behind them and beyond their technical quality it’s hard to really discern any idiosyncrasy. Put this next together to the somewhat flat digital production and the album quickly tires.

Given the title, it is perhaps a little obvious that “Origins” quickly lapses into homage. Tracks such as “Remain in Love” and “Envelope” are just a bit too in debt to the 80’s and it’s a shame that later tracks such “Emerald Hills”, which veer away from that template display a little more soul. In fact, when Hyyppa and Paalsomaa don’t give into the temptation (excuse the Heaven 17-related pun) of aping the records they so clearly love, their talent shines through. “Kiss and Tell” in particular hints at a darker side. The short “Way of the Future” is suitably dystopian and “Rainmaker” demonstrates a darker sophistication.

If the production wasn’t so slick and uniform, then I might have found more to love on “Origins”. It’s an uptempo affair with the emphasis on pop with a few chorus-driven numbers that will have fans of this genre enjoying most of it. A little more individuality on production and composition in the future and this duo will no doubt go far.

Toby Frith

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