• Nalle
  • By Chance Upon Waking (UK Pickled Egg) 2006 

This Glasgow-based Scottish/Finnish trio makes primitivist psychedelia that resonates with African, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Northern European folk traditions. Nalle’s naïf music is almost pre-modern in its sensibility, an off-kilter hybrid of the Incredible String Band and The Wicker Man, wrought with an array of string and wind instruments (oud, acoustic guitar, kantele, clarinet, viola, bouzouki, flute) and a mysterious artifact seemingly called a “shouti box.” Indeed, By Chance Upon Waking feels so deeply organic that it’s hard to imagine it was recorded anywhere but some enchanted rural idyll, aeons before civilization, when even language itself was new. Hanna Tuulikki’s idiosyncratic, strangely phrased vocals give the impression that words are novel to her (think of Björk as an idiot savant); these fragile, eccentric songs, which evoke music’s earliest ritual and communal functions, likewise captivatingly childlike. The subtle shifts in pace and intensity on the droning “Sunne Song” suggest music shaped by the elements; the tentative, gossamer-like “Sea Change” almost isn’t there. While the Eastern-nuanced “Midwinter’s Dream” typifies Nalle’s tendency to eschew rigid, unified structures, the songs do occasionally coalesce a little, especially when there’s a more pronounced rhythmic emphasis. The harmonium-driven “Iron’s Oath,” for instance, recalls some of Pentangle’s Orientalist moments; “New Roots” culminates in a joyous percussive burst. Nalle’s oneiric pastoral minimalism inhabits a realm that’s about as far off the beaten track of mainstream pop as you can get.

[Wilson Neate]