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KTMK - Valkenee - Koko Tuotanto

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Artist: KTMK

Album: Valkenee - Koko Tuotanto

Label: Karkia Mistika/Pukey

Review date: Feb. 27, 2008

Years before tastemakers began wetting their trousers over the country’s hazy psychedelic folk, eyeliner-smudging black metal and frigid, electronic minimalism, Finland was garnering hosannas for an infinitely leaner and meaner sonic subculture. Nordic hardcore was absolutely unstoppable in the early-to-mid 1980s – ask anyone weaned on Maximum Rock’n’Roll or currently paying his mortgage by selling Killed By Death-worthy 45s on eBay. The fastest, grubbiest, wildest acts (e.g. Rattus, Riistetyt, Kaaos) featured on the period’s international scene compilations often hailed from some wintry hellhole where Discharge-derived U.K. punk received a painful booster shot of frostbitten angst, liquor and weirdness. (Purchase Sekunda’s corrosive, recently completed Piikkilankamalli on BV2 Produktions or select titles by Läjä Äijälä’s husky Terveet Kädet for proof that youthful rancor can ignite valid, enduring careers.)

Which brings us to KTMK, short for Kansanturvamusiikkikomissio, or People’sSafetyMusicCommission in English: The retrospective Valkenee (“It’s Dawn”) gathers the band’s entire vinyl legacy – the stampeding 666 LP (1985), the so-so Seitsemäs Pasuuna EP (1986), and five tracks from the classic Yalta Hi-Life sampler (1984) – on a single CD.

Following in Terveet Kädet’s footsteps by refusing to adhere to stylistic clichés, KTMK was smarter than the bulk of its leather-clad peers. Appearing at the conclusion of the new disc, the group’s first, most doctrinaire compositions depend on amphetamine tempos, hotwired surfabilly leads, and gutturally shouted, politically ambiguous lyrics that might leave the average Marxist scratching his bulbous forehead until it bleeds. Vocalist Antti Penttilä sounds way manlier than your dad, and his support cast stomps and rages with hyperventilating, quasi-psychotic conviction. Jarno Mällinen’s slashing, trebly guitar hints at an eclectic future, reminding listeners that innovators like the Ex also embarked on their inaugural journeys wearing combat boots.

The 18 songs that launch Valkenee comprise KTMK’s sole album, 666, which finds the quartet busting more barriers without diluting the exhilarating rush. Our longhaired heroes were coming of age: Jyrki Raatikainen hadn’t quite developed into a technically spectacular drummer, but his stiffly tumbling tom-toms and Mällinen’s increasingly unpredictable playing (referencing everything from Birthday Partying doom-swing to Beefheartian blues to no-wave itchiness) shake up even the briefest blurts of rapid-fire thrash. Except for the moldy bump-and-grind of “Tee Mitä Teet” (“Do What You Do”), 666 represents Eurocore at its nonconformist best.

Despite the addition of second guitarist Jukka Kangas and a groovier, saw-toothed backbeat, the six-tune Seitsemäs Pasuuna (“The Seventh Trombone”) verges on straight and pedestrian, albeit antagonistic rock fodder. The machine-gun-meets-Bo Diddley “Käärinliinan Arvoitus” (“The Mystery of the Shroud”) kicks ass, but KTMK is precariously close to running on empty.

The ensemble splintered soon thereafter, in March 1986, though its influence persists. Penttilä, Raatikainen and Kari Heikonen (an ex-employee of Barabbas, the label that originally released 666 and Yalta Hi-Life) established Bad Vugum Records, which issued great, embryonic material by luminaries-to-be CMX, Circle and Kemialliset Ystävät while turning its hometown of Oulu into the capital of the Finnish underground during the late ’80s and 1990s.

As members of the well-respected, still-extant Radiopuhelimet, Mällinen and Raatikainen (Kangas left in 1996) continue to carry KTMK’s torch into the present. This successor quintet’s work – Bad Vugum’s initial raison d’être – has impressed such illustrious Yankees as Jello Biafra and Steve Albini. Not too shabby for a bunch of student types from the arctic fringes of civilization.

By Jordan N. Mamone

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