Loco Motife first came together, with largely the same personnel as on this recording, for a one-off performance at the JUMO Jazz Club in Helsinki in connection with the September 2003 release of the duo recording Heart of a Bird (TUM CD 004) by Iro Haarla and Ulf Krokfors. The goal was to create a strong contrast with the duo performance during the opening set of the evening and to show another side of the cooperation between Haarla and Krokfors. While their duo performances are often quiet and contemplative, Loco Motife is capable of generating a lot of electricity and excitement. Haarla and Krokfors also had Miles Davis´ live performances from the Bitches Brew period - open improvisation with few boundaries on top of a rich rhythmic carpet - somewhere in the back of their minds. In fact, the first performance did indeed capture that feeling but something different has happened since. The music has become more of a reflection of the personalities of Iro Haarla and Ulf Krokfors. Their compositions, even if just creating a framework for the performances, have guided the ensemble towards the unique common sound heard on this recording. Iro Haarla and Ulf Krokfirs themselves say the following about Loco Motife:
"We started putting together the music for Loco Motife based on the central idea of "electricity". However, we soon realized that, with the resources available to us in this group, we should broaden our approach and create music in various styles - a little this and a little that -without limiting ourselves to an unduly strict focus. A very diverse book of material started coming together. One can, of course, question, if this is a good thing. In our minds, it is. The current recording does not follow a particular style but rather its very style is its stylessness. Every composition is almost like a short story that leads to another short story.
After our duo recording, Heart of a Bird (TUM CD 004), we wanted to start a new band and make a recording with a different overall atmosphere. What is common with the duo recording is, maybe, an effort to deemphasize the importance of precise execution of our compositions. We make an effort to compose material that allows the musicians to create something of their own without having to stare at the written music too much. Even the application of this philosophy, however, varies from composition to composition. So, maybe we should, as the old cliché goes, let the music speak for itself…
The personnel of our little orchestra is made up of true characters and, as a result, our cooperation worked marvelously. At least our belief that, sometimes, a soup cannot have too many spices was further strengthened by this experience!"
Another way in which "electricity" was introduced into the music of Loco Motife was quite literal. Although Iro Haarla is known to most as a pianist and harpist, she has, since the late 1970s, also assembled a large array of keyboard instruments, which she originally used in Edward Vesala´s Sound and Fury ensemble as well as for other projects. For those interested in the specifics, her "kiosk" includes a Hammond A-100, Yamaha DX-7, BBG synthesizer, Jupiter 6 synthesizer, Yamaha organ, Emax sampler and Hohner string machine. Most of these instruments are vintage models from the 1970s and 1980s and responsible for much of the overall sound of Loco Motife. However, Haarla´s way of playing them has never been intrusive and, again, they often simmer in the background rather than claiming the spotlight. Above all, Haarla is a composer and arranger and, as a musician, a colorist more than a virtuoso. This is in contrast to Krokfors and many other members of Loco Motife who certainly are virtuosos of their own instruments and, occasionally, also like to show it.
The third building block behind Loco Motife is a little less concrete. Having often played music that had a certain darkness and seriousness to it, with Loco Motife, Haarla and Krokfors want to have some fun - to bring more light and cheerfulness into their music. Many of the compositions featured on Penguin Beguine reflect their particular brand of humor that may have been a bit more difficult to detect, for example, on Heart of a Bird.
Finally, Loco Motife is above all an assembly of good friends. All the musicians have known each other from various prior situations and have either played together or looked forward to playing together for quite some time. With Loco Motife, Haarla and Krokfors were able to invite a group of friends together to get to know them even better than before.
Loco Motife can also be seen in a broader context of a community of musicians based in Porvoo, a lovely old town located some 60 kilometers from Helsinki that has become a center for artists wanting to live outside of the Helsinki metropolitan area. For a few years now, Haarla and Krokfors, together with a number of other musicians including Antti Hytti and Tomas Törnroos from Loco Motife, have been organizing concerts, club performances and other events in Porvoo featuring freely improvised music. They are also among the key forces behind Musica Futura Jazz, an annual improvised music festival held in Porvoo and featuring such legends as saxophonist Tomasz Szukalski in 2003 and drummer Jon Christensen in 2004. With this recording by Loco Motife, Haarla and Krokfors have created another concrete demonstration of the importance of the musical community in Porvoo.