“Husky Rescue – how would I nail it down?” Markus Nyberg considers, sitting in a hotel in Seattle awaiting the tourbus to take him to the Portland, Oregon date of his band’s Lollapalooza jaunt across the USA, “It’s so far away from all those singer-songwriters who tell stories about things happening that start and end in the real world. In my music there’s no kind of end, I can’t describe my feelings that much and I can’t be sure what it feels like to be someone else.”
Thus Husky Rescue build big, if laid back, music that suggests every feeling Nyberg wants to convey without becoming bogged down in specifics; “an emotional ride with the lyrics opening a world around the music” is how he describes it. Their new album, Ghost Is Not Real, particularly, puts the squeeze on the emotions. Where Husky Rescue’s last album was easy-going to the core, soft focus at the edges even, the new one bites.
Nyberg grew up in a small town 60 kilometres north of Helsinki in Finland and was a musical prodigy from an early age. He found that orchestral works such as Camille Saint-Saens’ ‘Carnival Of Animals’ inspired raw emotion in him, even as a boy, and later went to the famous Sibelius Academy with the intention of becoming a music teacher. His intellectually inquisitiveness got the better of him, however, and he spent much of his early twenties travelling to destinations in search of inspiration. “My mum worked for Finnair,” he explains. “I went often to London and New York, a really good contrast to the smaller circle of Finland. I wasn’t into clubbing so much as the music in clubs, drum & bass and the whole city scene. My music now is such a contrast to that. I couldn’t make banging music, I’m into making music that’s comforting rather than distracting.” Thus he turned inwards away from the frenetic urban scene. “I don’t have a beach in Helsinki but a very beautiful sea shore,” he ventures, then laughs, “I’m a bit crazy. I can feel my head going to the sea sometimes. Also, if you don’t have the water round you, you can’t build a raft and sail away when hard times come.”
Nyberg became a sound designer, working for TV commercials and adverts, but his appetite for culture continued to be voracious. A renaissance man, he threw himself into everything from architecture to the films of Aki Kaurismaki, French Impressionism to modern classical composers such as Arvo Part. All these influences were channelled into his own pet project, Husky Rescue, who were picked up by Catskills Records in 2003. The debut album, Country Falls, was a success with discerning listeners and the music media.
With the album, though, came demands for a band called Husky Rescue which didn’t actually exist. Chris Coco, who had supported the debut EP on his Radio 1 show, asked Husky Rescue to play at his club in London. “This started some sort of butterfly effect and I ended up wrestling with Catskills saying I really don’t want some kind of set-up where I was playing a laptop computer. I wanted a proper band.” He got it.
Reeta-Leena Korhola appeared as a youngster in Finnish post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie ‘Routasydan’ but bloomed into an erudite young woman who just happens to be everyone’s idea of a Scandinavian blonde bombshell. She became Husky’s singer assisted by Miika Colliander on guitar, Villee Riippa on keyboards and Anssi Sopanen on drums. Marko found he liked the band dynamic and the five-piece have since performed over 70 dates since May 2004. More importantly they provided lithe back-up when he needed to lay down his darker second album. “The overall concept for the new album is angels and demons,” says Marko, now 32 (“but always 26”), “When you’re a child a lot of good things happen but then they’re spoiled when you grow older. This album is like circling round in a plane observing as paradise is lost.”
Such enigmatic descriptions mask six months of relationship heartache that Marko is not willing to rake over. The album, instead, is jammed with subtle imagery and lush orchestration, an edifice built to express emotions but painted in broad expansive strokes. “I never listen to music when I begin to compose,” he reveals, “I start building a small universe around me. When I was a kid I used to make model aeroplanes; making music is very similar but there’s no plan to follow. Initially, I put ten pieces of A4 paper on my floor at home and started to draw something, compiling images from magazines, papers, making a collage.”
The opening lyrics on the album, “This is my home, the place where I’m lonely,” introduce ‘My Home Ghost’, an elegiac number wherein Reeta-Leena Korhola’s vocals emote isolation with crystal clarity . “It’s a melancholy starting point that doesn’t give any answers,” admits Marko before adding, somewhat melodramatically, “This album is like a death trip of the emotional world.”
In contrast ‘Nightless Night’ begins as a rocking ode to the simplicity of country living, pitched somewhere between Blondie and the Primitives, it swirls gradually into a seven minute minor key opus, replete with Doors keyboards. But that is a mere prologue compared to the three song suite ‘Blueberry Tree’, parts I, II and III. “When I was a kid I went to pick blueberries with my parents,” says Marko, “The things I did with them when I was young are so much more important, had so much more impact. It’s some sort of trip drawing on childhood to channel imagery.”
Where that ambitious piece, like the work of Syd Barrett bathed in nostalgia for childhood idylls, undoubtedly forms a solid central strut to the album, ‘Hurricane (Don’t Come Knocking)’ may be its most startlingly beautiful track. Drawing on Nyberg’s much touted classical training, it combines opulent synth parts with a hypnotic plucked guitar line and lyrics that most pointedly speak of love and desperation. It is an epic that deserves to have an afterlife as a standard end-of-night torch song ballad.
From here, after the ambient spoken word interlude of ‘Silent Wood’, ‘Shadow Run’ showcases Husky Rescue’s playful side, a spectral electro bouncer touting the chorus, “Girls get ready, the night is young, shadow boys are on the run.” It could easily hail from the minimalist Berlin of Snax, Mocky and co. Then, before things draw to a close, there’s just time for the forthright ‘Caravan’, a song of hope that recalls the optimism of Country Falls.
Husky Rescue, take their listener through the wide gamut of their bandleader’s emotions and, in doing so, chance upon a sophomore album of depth and character. It’s an album overflowing with Marko’s momentous, elusive ghosts of the title. “You can decide what the ghosts are for yourself,” he concludes, “Ghosts are everywhere.”