Bangkok Impact is the nom de disco of talented newcomer Sami Liuski. Sami is a 23-year-old electronics genius from the small town of Rovaniemi in northern Finland. His father is a dairy worker. His mother’s employed by the local police station. Sami lives on his own, but he has a girlfriend. He studies digital media at the University of Lapland.
Music is his consuming passion, however, and over the past two years Sami has released a handful of incredible singles. Chances are you’ll have heard his latest one, ‘Masters Of The Universe’, while out and about in the country’s hipper nightspots. A deluxe nine-minute nouveau-disco epic in two parts, ‘Masters Of The Universe’ is Sami’s hymn to that great macho stoic, He Man, and it rocks hard in the campest fashion possible. VICE magazine describes it as “the best dancefloor record pressed onto plastic this year” and you know what? They’re spot on.
Though Finnish, Sami has forged close ties with the formidable Dutch electro scene, which is finally receiving deserved exposure in the UK. There, respected labels such as Clone (based in Rotterdam), Crème Organization and Bunker (from The Hague), and major player I-F’s Viewlexx, Panama and Holosynthesis imprints champion a dirty, debonair approach to dance music that’s led to their style being dubbed ‘”The West Coast Sound of Holland”. In 2001, working under the pseudonym 8-Bit Rockers, Sami sent Bunker a demo which they swiftly released as a 12-inch. That same year, Sami gave Bunker another demo featuring tracks by his other aliases, Lolita Strap and Bangkok Impact. The Bunker crew were so impressed with Sami’s playful and inventive neo-disco sound that they instantly released it on their new label, Crème Organization.
Of his Bangkok Impact pseudonym, Sami says: “I was smoking a cigarette one morning and I was playing with words in my mind. These two popped in out of nowhere and I thought they sounded pretty good. Afterwards I searched Google by using these as keywords and found out that there's an arena in Bangkok called Impact where things like Robbie Williams gigs take place. I didn't know this before, or maybe it was in my subconsciousness.” 8-Bit Rockers, on the other hand, “sounded nice because at the time I was making this computer-pop that sounded like it was coming from a computer game. Lolita Strap was another of these ‘two words that come out of nowhere’ things.”
Today, Crème attracts a growing number of like-minded, peculiarly-named European artists – Monkey Chop, Mr Clavio, Polarius, It & My Computer – and has yet to put out a record that doesn’t bring the house down. You’re strongly advised to find the first Bangkok Impact single. Both tracks, ‘Aspirin’ and ‘Junge Dame Mit Freundliche Tel’, ably demonstrate Sami’s natural flair for marrying killer synth melodies to an unorthodox style of house music. Some call it his “Finnish tango sound”.
Bangkok Impact’s debut album ‘Traveller’ is Crème’s most significant release to date. It is aptly named too, as it finds Sami exploring dance music’s past, investigating its future possibilities, and questioning his affection for disco. For a debut, ‘Traveller’ is some accomplishment. Sami’s assured, clean production technique allows him to blend funk, soul, supple computer pop and trippy, organic electro into a flexible and seductive style all of his own. ‘Traveller’ is: an immediately gratifying listen; an accessible soul odyssey; an 11-track masterclass in modern disco finesse; an honest album straight from Sami’s heart.
“When I made the LP I was listening to a lot of music produced by Quincy Jones from the late-’70s/early-’80s,” he admits. “I love those Moog basslines in his productions as well as in old Bootsy Collins records! Metro Area influences me a lot, I really like their style of electronic funk and, again, those basslines rock. Older stuff like Giorgio Moroder and Patrick Cowley are obvious influences, as well as Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra – I love those melodies and chord progressions. Also, I was influenced by Dutch producers like Legowelt, I-F and The Parallax Corporation.”
Like fellow Scandinavians Röyksopp and reclusive Scots duo Boards Of Canada, Sami has the enviable ability to remix his own environment, to lucidly transcribe his emotions into a lush, harmonious sound. “I guess my music does have a melancholy tone,” he says. “I believe that music is influenced a lot by where one is living. I live here up north where it's very, very cold in winter. The sun doesn't stay up very long now so most of the day it's dark. It's a very strange feeling and sometimes depressing too. Of course it's all over my music, even if it's always not very evident. There is still this feeling I experience every day.”
As a child, Sami discovered the joys of music through friends and the radio. The first record he bought was Metallica’s ‘Ride The Lightning’. Although Sami has dedicated most of the last four years to music production, he began making tunes at the age of 12, composing songs on his Amiga 500 computer using tracker programs and sampled instruments. “I was mainly toying around but I learnt the basics of how different instruments interact with each other,” he says. “I also played guitar when I was younger and learnt some basic music theory through that. Later on I got some more equipment and started learning things more seriously.”
Crème aside, Sami has additionally released excellent tracks on I-F’s Viewlexx label (‘The Floor’) and contributes ‘Bright Light, Dim Light’ to Clone’s superb ‘We Still Kill The Old Way’ compilation. For the curious, that album is a comprehensive introduction to the sounds of the Dutch scene. Then there’s Putsch ’79’s ‘1300’ EP, Sami’s New York disco-style collaboration with pal Pauli Jylhänkangas, out now on Clone. And if you come across tracks by Olavi and Omni Incentive, yup, that’s Sami as well.
“It's fun to play with names and mix people's minds,” adds this multi-monikered musician. “I think it also represents the thing that I've always liked about electronic music: the music itself is important, not who is behind it.”
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