Helsinki-based Plutonium 74 plays psychedelic rhythm music (or “melancholic marine groove” as they call it) and is one of the most important and eclectic bands in the Finnish funky scene dating back to the late 90’s. Their activity has been more or less relative. Even though they officially have never took a break, the band has released only three albums during their long career. However, each one of them is considered widely as classics in the local scene and whenever they release new material it’s sort of a special event. Plutonium 74 combines several different genres from disco to folk music, progressive rock, funk, pop and electronica in their music without focusing on any single style, which would define their sound.
The band started as a five-piece band consisting of band leader and singer Ylermi Rajamaa, drummer and electronic sound wizard Ville Pystynen, guitarist Otso Paasivirta, bassist and beat boxer Kare Nieminen and trumpetist Olli Rautiainen (Kuja Orchestra), who formed the basis also on their debut album Pasilasta Kallioon (2003). Their first effort became soon an underground hit and a cult album in the Finnish scene. Thus the band has expanded and experienced some changes in their lineup. On the second album Peittoalueen ulkopuolella (2008) the bassist war replaced by Joonatan Kotila, who also plays mandolin, acoustic guitar and Hammond organ. The new members also included trombonist Heikki Tuhkanen, trombonist and mandolinist Ville Nissinen (Polkuharmonix, The Capital Beat) and percussionist Ilja Juutilainen (Posteljoona & Ystävät).
Through the years the music of Plutonium 74 has reformed into more abundant even though the versatility and a wide range of influences were present from the very beginning. Their third album was released after a long wait in 2020. In the new line-up the guitarist was replaced by Kaj Kääriäinen and besides Olli Rautiainen, who these days also plays harmonica and synthesizer, the horn section is now formed by Baabelin Torvet (The Horns of Babel) consisting of trombonist and flutist Erno Haukkala (Jätkäjätkät, The Soul Investigators, Soul Captain Band, Bad Ass Brass Band) and trumpetist Eero Savela (The Soul Investigators, Soul Captain Band, Frankosun And The Family). Other regular members include Stella Kullström (vocals, violin) and Eppu Helle (soundman).
Even though Plutonium 74 has performed on the majority of the most important Finnish festivals as well as all around the country, due to very limited promotion their fame and popularity has focused on the Helsinki metropolitan area and Southern Finland. However, many think that they would had had all the potential for decades already to achieve the front row of popular Finnish artists nationwide and they are generally considered as one of the long-term cult bands in the local rhythm music scene today. One specific feature of them has always been the ability of fusing Finnish state of mind, pop music and folk in a psychedelic way to very versatile rhythm music influences. The lyrics of the songs are typically written with a folksy but poetic twinkle in the corner of the eye and they tend to comment on issues merely between the lines rather than directly.
If the band will respect their traditions, the fourth album of Plutonium 74 will see its daylight probably at some point between the years 2025-2035. If you wonder why, this is because they are well known for ages of how their new material is “just about to drop next autumn” or “next spring”. Some of the most remarkable challenges during the years have been the big size of the orchestra and synchronizing all the timetables and projects where the members are involved. When asked about the release date of their third album on Turun Sanomat newspaper in 2019, Ville Pystynen answered:
– Who the hell knows when the album is finished. We are musicians, not prophets. Here you try to write the lyrics, compose and arrange your life and experiences into new art. When it’s like that, it’s very difficult for one to say when it’s ready and when it’s not.
Text: Joonas Kervinen / Funky Finland
Main photo: Pasi Nevalaita
2nd photo: Pentti Hokkanen