Lau Nau: Adventures in sound and vision

Lau Nau dives deep into the realm of cinematic music while trekking the world over by booking her own gigs.

“I’m a total cinephile” laughs Laura Naukkarinen alias Lau Nau heartily. “My youth was spent on the lobby benches of (legendary Helsinki cinema) Orion, waiting for the next film to begin.”

Naukkarinen talks of her cinematic past while touring in the US, performing at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Together with the Matti Bye Ensemble, she creates scores for selected avant garde films and also for the 3-hour 20-minute mammoth that is Swedish director Mauritz Stiller’s Gösta Berling’s Saga. “That’s a heavy score to play” says Naukkarinen, her voice filled with anticipation and enthusiasm.

From her 2004 debut Kuutarha onwards, Lau Nau’s name has been a staple of ever-evolving creative music, often characterised by the emotional loudness of her sonically delicate expression. Naukkarinen’s whispering style of vocal delivery has time and again given room to beautifully designed sparse instrumental landscapes.

World of sound

While the 2015 release Hem. Någonstans with its ambient electroacoustic compositions was a prime example of the latter, Poseidon, the latest Lau Nau effort released in late 2017 was remarkable effort in songcraft. The album offers some of the most personal and timeless Lau Nau music to date, wonderfully reflected by the collective work of the musicians on the album featuring regular collaborators Matti Bye, Pekko KäppiAntti Tolvi, plus more.

The rich instrumentation heard on the LP ranges from vocals, piano and celesta played by Naukkarinen to cello, harmonium, electronics, thumb piano, et al. The natural combination of archaic and modern makes Poseidon a fascinating listen, an album confident enough to build its own world of sound, yet subtle enough to make you want to lean in, to close your eyes in order to listen with complete attention, to hear more.

Traveling light

Poseidon was released via the Lau Nau’s longstanding creative partner Fonal Records, the Tampere based label which used to spearhead the mid-noughties creative new wave of the Finnish experimental music, but has since quieted down to release only a select digital or CD album here and there. The record’s vinyl version comes courtesy of Beacon Sound record label, whose HQ is located in Portland, Oregon.

“I feel that somehow my music has always gone over well in the US” says Naukkarinen. Does the new collaboration with a US label still deepen the connection? “Yes, probably so” she ponders.

While North America is a distinctively tough market for faraway Nordic acts to enter, Naukkarinen manages herself in the process. Tours are planned directly with prospective gig promoters and the production work related to travelling is very much DIY, save for Japan where Lau Nau has booking representation.

“I guess I just haven’t found the right person to work with on this” shrugs Naukkarinen. “That doesn’t mean that it’s my choice. I would love to find a good agent to work with, but in the meantime, I'll make due with what I have.”

Collaborating, not competing

Naukkarinen performs around the world very actively, rarely taking a pause from her touring schedule, and her ever-growing worldwide following seems to be the most obvious reward of her work ethic. Not long ago, she appeared as part of the program curated by Julia Holter at Utrecht’s Le Guess Who, one of Europe’s premiere festivals for adventurous music – yet another prime example of her solid reputation in the scene, a product of a stellar career characterised by quality and longevity. 

“I’ve always felt that there’s a strong community around this music” she says. “It’s so wonderful to tour when there’s always somebody to meet me at the airport. The whole vibe is very much collaborative, rather than competitive, and that is especially true for such small scenes as the one in Finland.”

When it comes to keeping things fresh, the recipe is actually very simple, says Naukkarinen.

“Just let new people in, be open and keep things moving. All scenes and communities must keep evolving. You should never stop reinventing yourself. Personally, I’m in a great place right now. Having had my kids grow up a bit and also being able to focus on music instead of having a day job, I now have more time for creating new music than ever. That’s a true gift.”


Lau Nau: Poseidon

(Fonal Records, 2017)