in Reviews

Communing with ghosts on the island of souls

by Wif Stenger

"A poignant soundscape that works equally well as a standalone work and as a movie score."

Over 15 years, multi-instrumentalist and singer Lau Nau (Laura Naukkarinen) has quietly earned an international following. With strands of folk, improvisation, ambient electronics, aural collages, toy instruments and choral arrangements, she creates quirky, whimsical performances.

Naukkarinen has created several film soundtracks including this, her seventh and most ambitious self-produced album. Along with Swedish pianist Matti Bye and the film’s sound designer, Janne Laine, she crafts a poignant soundscape that works equally well as a standalone work and as a movie score.

The award-winning film is an impressionistic essay about a remote Finnish island (“Soul Island”). Established as a leper colony in the seventeenth century, it later housed a prison-like mental hospital, mostly for ‘troubled’ or non-conformist women, and now an environmental research centre.

Naukkarinen, who lives in the archipelago, seems to have a deep affinity for this windswept landscape. Her music, like the place, is eerily beautiful, with an undercurrent of sorrow for those shut away on the island.

Lau Nau subtly weaves Bye’s piano and cassette loops and Laine’s field recordings through modular and analogue synthesizers. Spoken-word parts quote letters by women banished to the island, and the names of flowers that grow on their graves.

Some pieces approach Bernard Herrmann’s harrowing film music, such as Noctuidae (a family of moths) where a subtly menacing mesh of ticking sounds and bird screeches is punctuated by sudden piano chords.

Most of the album, though, is exquisitely lovely, even peaceful.

Jäätyneen meren yli (“Over the Frozen Sea”) ushers us into the island’s simple church and layered, whispered prayers for those who tried to flee the island. On the closing track, Ön försvinner (“The Island Vanishes”), dramatic single piano notes reverberate over an endless, chilly expanse, taking us on an unforgettable voyage.

LAU NAU: Själö – Original Soundtrack

Fonal Records FR-110LP