If you live in the western hemisphere, chances are you won’t understand a single word Regina sings, and that’s okay. The Helsinki-based three-piece band sing in their native language of Finnish, lending a surreal, otherworldy quality to their distinguished blend of electronic beats, folk and world music, wild percussion, and slightly-hazy melodies. “Puutarhatrilogia” [“Garden Trilogy”], the band’s first album to be released in the states, is a delightfully trippy and subtly sexy record even if song titles like “Terveiset päiväntasaajalta” (only the first word capitalized, as is the Finnish convention) might sound strange to English speakers. Put simply, singer Iisa Pykäri’s voice would be beautiful in any language, and Regina’s music possesses a similarly universal appeal.
Regina formed in 2005 when Iisa and Mikko Pykäri started making early demos in their living room in Tampere, a largely industrial town that is often called “the Manchester of Finland” due to the disproportionate number of rock bands it has produced. Once Mikko Rissanen joined on drums and the group solidified as a trio, they moved to Helsinki and quickly started receiving -universal accolades in their home country, including a nomination for the Emma award (the Finnish equivalent of the Grammy award) and rave reviews from nearly every magazine in the country. The band recorded and produced “Puutarhatrilogia” – a loosely-structured allegory using the garden as a metaphor for the human mind – entirely in their home studio, digging deep into their love of both modern pop music and a wealth of lesser-known ethnic musical traditions to create a sound that possesses an element of magical realism and sometimes even extends its reach into pure fantasy.
“Saanko jäädä yöksi?” is the album’s centerpiece, anchored by a skittish piano line and sampled snippets of Iisa’s falsetto vocals, before turning into a full-on club banger that wouldn’t be out of place on a dance floor. Elsewhere the album becomes dreamier, stranger, and more languid, with the chromatic piano of “Tapaa minut aamulla” and the plaintive shuffle of “Olen häviöllä, Pauli” evoking the alien soundscapes of Fever Ray and the sultriness of Charlotte Gainsbourg. The band even dips into tango with the lovely “Tango merellä”. By the time the tribal chants of “Musta musta puutarha” are over, you will have fallen for this truly magical band, regardless of what language you may speak.