Cover photo: Flow Festival / Petri Anttila
After having visited one of the biggest festivals of the Nordic countries already in 2019, we got to see Flow Festival‘s development and changes after a break of two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year the three-day festival, which took place 12 to 14 August 2022, reached a record number of over 90.000 attendees. Besides the various music genres and more to explore for their visitors, the offered food options were almost all vegan and delicious! Even a completely non-alcoholic bar was available during this year’s edition.
As during 2019 the festival visitors were also this year able to experience contemporary art, talks, concerts with main acts like the Gorillaz and Florence + The Machine, DJ-sets and local design (although this year the movie element was left out). Surprisingly quite a few international acts like Princess Nokia and The Blessed Madonna were also this time performing again, which maybe could have been shuffled up a bit more. When it comes to the music, with a big variety of music genres it felt like there is always something for everyone. Although regarding the electronic music acts, it seems to get more and more commercial. Sadly during this edition, the distorted side of electronic music (which is becoming popular in the local Helsinki scene) and deep or hypnotic techno was not much or none to find.
The Front Yard stage curated by Resident Advisor was as last time a fun place to listen to DJ sets but very focused on more commercial tunes and “save” acts like Marcel Dettmann, Dixon, DJ Stingray 313 and The Blessed Madonna. During the earlier hours you were able to explore some of the great local acts like the collective Electronic Market, who delivered a great genrecrossing B2B or better said “B2B2B2B2B” set showcasing their entire talented crew (who we had the pleasure to interview). It would be lovely to see the talented local acts also during later hours on this stage, to be discovered by a bigger international crowd.
One of our personal favorite stages has been this year The Other Sound x Sun Effects stage. On day one Caterina Barbieri presented her newest work The Spirit Exit. The typical signature of Barbieri being layers and layers of synthesizers was mixed with beautiful goose-pump triggering vocals. On the last day KMRU performed a fantastic atmospheric live set, going through tribal sound sequences including field recordings which took the listener on a different dimension.
A highlight was definitely the Tiilikello x Polestar space. The venue is a new art space in an old gasometer over 40 meters high and wide where you could lay down on low frequency beds and enjoy the sound installation Butterfly Effect by Antti Tolvi, and a massive art installation hanging in the middle of the venue, called Blowing Flower by Hanna Vihriälä.
The Red Garden stage was also this time a great place to dance until you sweat. Curated by a bunch of local artist, the hosts were dressed in mostly red looks and dancing beside the DJs to animate the crowd. Cardinal & Nun from Marseille, France performed a great live set and made the entire Red Garden scream. The project comes from the darker directions of electronic music and ranges from EBM, industrial, to electro and noise. The space also offered amazing sets by local DJs like Denzel and Coco Ninja & Iconic House of Ninja. On the last day the duo Giant Swan delivered some harsher sounds, and the closing was done with an energizing, genrecrossing set and voguing moves by DJ Patrick Mason.
To round up this review and get some local insights, we had the pleasure to sit down for an interview with the Helsinki collective Electronic Market. Luckily we were able to catch all five members of the collective, Suski, Linda Lazarov, Kristiina Männikkö, Elisa Katariina & Emma Valtonen, right after their performance.
What triggered you to create Electronic Market? And how would you describe what Electronic Market is?
Elisa Katariina: The idea came from wanting to connect like-minded people and have a support group. So, to not be “alone” in the electronic music industry as probably most of us have experienced the toughness in the field and the mainly male domination of it.
Emma Valtonen: Years before having our collective, each of us started their own career at times when there were not many other female-identifying or non-binary DJs in the Finnish scene.
Suski & Elisa Katariina: So besides being an agency/collective we wanted to form a support system also for each other. Especially to help with international bookings as it is also difficult to price yourself. It makes it easier if someone else does the negotiation for you.
Where and how did you launch Electronic Market?
Emma Valtonen: We had our initial launch party at G Livelab. It’s a venue in the centre of Helsinki, founded by the Finnish Music Association to support the development of the local music scene.
Linda Lazarov: For the second event we decided to go to club Kaiku. We transformed the club into a green space with a big installation of flowers and herbs. I still remember the amazing smell of all the herbs and the very cozy atmosphere.
While forming a collective of five artists, what does each of you represent and do you see some connections in your styles?
Emma Valtonen: In the beginning, I focused a lot on techno music and was taking it very seriously genre and style-wise. I also played a lot B2B with Kristiina Männikkö and we had a great thing going on. However, nowadays I am all in to bringing pure joy to the dance floors via my sets and I use many different styles and genres even some “silly party music”. It totally depends where I play and with whom together.
Kristiina Männikkö: I rather focus on energies than genres. Mystical energies and energetic ones might be mostly describing my sound. Besides for example Electro, Dark wave and harsher sounds I can also play cheesy Italo-Disco with my brother who is also a DJ. In the beginning I focused on less genres and mostly played EBM and Dark wave.
Elisa Katariina: I think in general everyone develops over time. In the beginning, I could compare myself to Emma Valtonen. I was really into techno and mostly only specialising in specific genres. After years I think I also have created a more joyful approach to DJ-ing. Many times I feel like I am some sort of “bridge” between styles. Like during our B2B set today, creating a connection between different styles and yet making it my own. Electronic music and my crew has done some great things for me. I see all their different approaches to music, and the love for it that everyone here carries out, is just inspiring.
Suski: What I play nowadays is a matter of time and space. It totally differs from the environment, the situation, mood and the vibe. Especially when you play B2B you have to be very conscious and see what is up, what energies are out there on the dance floor. I go in with total intuition and start my sets mostly with one track that I pre-select and continue from there. It is funny because I am getting more into techno nowadays but yet with joyful vibes, so this is where we kind of meet probably from our team. However, it always goes beyond genres.
Linda Lazarov: The reason why I started DJ-ing was probably because of my mind-bending experiences I had on the dance floors. At some point, I thought it might be interesting if I could also contribute to that and let others on the dance floor experience it from my perspective. Stylistically probably like Kristiina Männikkö, my style included more EBM and Dark wave influences at first. Right now I am more into polyrhythmic, “breaksy” and experimental music without loosing the kind of touch that keeps you on the dance floor. Finding the common denominator in-between tracks that move from one place to another in a way where you really have no idea what is going to happen next.
It is very interesting to hear about your personal developments or even shifts over time. You all in some way or another mention bringing joy to the dance floor is essential and focusing on energies and spaces rather than genres. Getting now to the last few questions: How would you describe the Helsinki electronic music scene right now?
Electronic Market: Blooming!
In what way?
Elisa Katariina: In all different ways! It is amazing to see so many new collectives popping up. A lot of young people who are purely having fun, and it’s not so strict anymore. There is not a specific kind of code you need to adapt to. It is purely about just expressing yourself and having fun.
So you cannot really name a genre right now?
Electronic Market: (everyone nodding and agreeing) Now it really goes into all directions. The “stiffness” to it, is kind of gone, thankfully!
Emma Valtonen: It’s not how it used to be like 10 years ago anymore, when the scene was way smaller and others were kind of expecting you to play specific songs for example.
Elisa Katariina: There was in some way only accepted “that one way” on how to DJ. So everything is way more relaxed nowadays.
Linda Lazarov: Also the rise of the importance of safer spaces is great to see nowadays.