Uncharted is our weekly showcase of rising artists. This week, Jon Pappo profiles Helsinki's electronic duo Phantom.
Helsinki—as the summer settles, the blistering cold enters and the dark nights force the bodies indoors. Inside dimly lit warm rooms, tinkering away with the sounds of icy machines—Tommi Koskinen and Hanna Toivonen are Phantom. Emerging in the beginning of 2012—entrenched in the processes of mainframes digital explorations and experiments with the self and technology. The dissipating voice looping cutting scraping leaving returning. The hum of the acoustics wrapped in data techno electro samples synths.
Hanna’s warm soothing voice coursing through the buzzing click clack of encroaching piano, incorporation of the self into the technological—seeing the scars, the human outside of the machine. The cold sounds come from a joyful experiment with capability, possibility, and mutability—the openness of technology. The burgeoning—being found, being heard, being shared and negotiations made when you can’t leave the house.
The inner and outer worlds collide.
Your bio says Phantom only began about four months ago, but already you’ve garnered a bit of acclaim around the world. Can you tell me a bit about both your projects before Phantom and how the two of you came together?
It’s funny how things happen in this world, because we actually met by accident last summer at a start-up company co-working space called Aalto Venture Garage. We were both involved in music start-ups and had a background in music, so when we first met we decided to see what happens if we try to create music together. What comes to our own projects, Tommi has been producing electronic music for almost 15 years and has done some jazzy techno and deep house releases with his band Kitkaliitto. Hanna has been active alternative and jazz singer in various bands and has her music education background in Sibelius Academy.
What’s your life like in Helsinki? Have you both lived their all of your lives? How has it affected your sound, if at all, and where are you situated within a larger music scene?
The life in Helsinki and Finland is generally great and we’ve both lived here for the most of our lives. During the summer it’s warm and beautiful and people are smiling and super-friendly. But as you can probably imagine, the long dark and cold period that lasts for about 8 months each year, takes its toll. Some people can get really tired and depressed, but it’s also perfect for the creative and hard-working Finns. We hide in our studios to make music and polish it until the fine point of perfection. The environment we live in has definitely affected our music. Not just a little bit, but a lot.
In the larger music scene, we are definitely underground. But the underground scene in Helsinki for example is really blooming. There are lot of really cutting edge electronic music acts here and really good gigs and club events going on.
The music video for “Scars” is incredibly affecting, encapsulating your digitally based, but soulful sound. Were you at all involved with the process of making the video? How does technology, and the possibility of humanity in technology, inspire you?
Yes, we were involved in the project with the video creators from Delicode Ltd and Studio Lumikuu. All the material in the video was shot in just few hours and we actually saw the end result in real time while we acted the scenes. Delicode guys have really mastered the visualization of Kinect camera data and just to give you guys a little teaser: You’ll actually see the application work in real time with all those cool effects when we’re playing live.
New technological innovations really inspire us and we also want to keep Phantom open for any kind of technological experiments. All the open source hardware movements, hackers and makers can help people to realize that “Hey, basically I can do this and that myself and I don’t need to buy it from the shop.” – and that’s fucking cool. As people play more in the free time, a lot of new products and world changing ideas will come up for sure. Plus, more fun!
What is the UFO, or MIDI Theremin that you’ve created? Is creating new technology important to your project as musicians? How does it help to expand your sound?
The UFO is basically a self-built MIDI controlled with 5 sensors detecting your hand gesture movements. It’s not actually a Theremin but it can be played like one. In the long run, we hope that the UFO thingie is just the beginning. And yes, the tech is important and helps you to distinguish yourself from the other bands as the field is really competitive. The UFO was of course designed to look extremely cool when played live ; ).
2012 is already turning to be positive for you two, with a gig at SXSW and the xx giving you a huge push. What is the rest of the year looking like for Phantom? What are your larger ambitions as a duo?
We’re currently working on new material that will manifest itself as a new EP or a Long Play later this year. The next Scars has already been summoned in the studio ; ). We have some gigs lined up for the Summer in Finland and Germany and more will be coming very likely, but before touring extensively we really want to finish the good stuff, the music for you guys.