The Finnish psych-rockers Hisko Detria are deliberately continuing the 70s krautrock tradition, but they never sound like a bunch of frazzled German weirdos trying to relive the glory days. On their self-released demo Static Raw Power Kraut, the simple title belies music that is incredibly impassioned, genuine, youthfully heartfelt rock, both astoundingly original and rooted in worldwide psychedelic tradition. It turns out this is a project originally dating back to the early 70s, revived by Klaus Löpöti on guitar and vocals, with some young blood in his native Finland. However, the band was originally formed by some Frankfurt-based krautrock weirdos in 1970, and Lopoti was recruited to play with the band briefly in 1975 at the age of ten. The most notorious member of this early lineup was Andreas Baader, who founded the Red Army Faction, a militant left-wing organization, in the same year as Hisko Detria’s inception. Their current bassist is credited as “Andreas Baader,” though with conspicuous quotation marks. It seems little Klaus absorbed enough inspiration during his brief stint with the Germans to make a damn good band on his own over three decades later. (It should be noted, however, that most of us will never know how much they may resemble the original lineup, since they never recorded.)
Although this is a demo—recorded live in studio, if I’m not mistaken—, the musicianship and production is top-notch. What becomes immediately apparent to the listener is that these guys know how to use their amps, not just guitars, as instruments in themselves. Passages of sparse and subtle guitar drone introduce the longest tracks bookending this release, “Nothing Happens” and “On the Road Again.” On the former, we first get a few minutes of the guitarists displaying their loud, expansive, versatile tone with waves of feedback and arpeggiated ruminations. A throbbing bass tone begins a rhythm that will soon suddenly explode into a bombastic 7/8 pulse that pummels relentlessly for the remaining eleven minutes.
Following this earthshattering first impression, the delightful surprise, clocking in at a relatively brief seven minutes, is “Poserslave,” perhaps the band’s most direct recognition of its roots. We may wonder, at least briefly, if they are going to start sounding redundantly nostalgic, or feel that the keyboards start off sounding a bit anachronistic; but rather than falling into a trite cliché, the band achieves a subtle balance between improvisation and repetition. The jangling guitar ostinatos are loose and acidwashed, while the mellow, echoed chanting vocals add an odd mystical charm. The contrast is undeniably surprising: after having your cranium shattered by the brutal rock-out of the opener, the cheery synth melodies, reminiscent of Tangerine Dream and Josef Zawinul’s sunniest moments in Weather Report, sputter sibilant inflections over a confident yet languid major-key “motorik” groove (see the bouncy-yet-robotic rhythms of 70s krautrock pioneers Neu! from Dusseldorf). At the halfway point of the demo, they’ve managed to balance contemporary and forward-thinking motifs of psychedelic rock with a deliberate recognition of their past influences, and the juxtaposition doesn’t feel jarring at all.
In a successful effort to keep the listener on his toes, the moment of leisure gives way to yet another rude awakening. If we are to take their eponymous track as their musical manifesto, the song “Hisko Detria” asserts a raw tenacity with its driving, invigorating tempos and Lopoti’s maybe-drunken wailing vocals, but also a mellower side, with spaced-out Moog and an abruptly slow, oddly theatrical interlude builds into a loud midpaced metal riff in the vein of Sleep, drudging on at its grueling pace until the band just sort of… decides to stop playing around the same time, in a stumbling halt. All four songs have an undeniable sense of collective intuition, and this song, even in its sloppy moments, is no exception.
On the final track, we are treated to a resounding statement of symmetry: the closing track complements its counterpart quite aptly, unfolding from a delicate blues riff that is given ample space to develop spontaneously in a gradual, plodding crescendo. It eventually culminates in a glorious balls-out stoner rock jam at volumes that rival recent psych/metal acts such as White Hills, Earthless, and Bushman’s Revenge. Although the band cites it as a Canned Heat cover, it’s nearly three times as long and sixty billion times louder than the original, with hoarse accent-mangled lyrics remaining as the sole point of resemblance—the raging, impassioned vocals make the tepid crooning in the original sound like a mere whisper. These are riffs you can lose yourself in, with searing guitar solos over simple yet infectious pentatonic riffs, nothing but the barebones ingredients that a rock ‘n’ roll song needs to extend into a fifteen-minute infinitude.
So there you have it—a damn fine album that was self-produced, self-released, and offered as a free download for anyone to enjoy. It’s rarely with such delight that one hears a band’s first release presenting a humble recognition of past influences with a brash and immediate declaration of new energy, merging them seamlessly with the skill of their collective improvisation. The emergent sounds are familiar yet wholly new—timeless. Like the strangest bands of the 70s, from Can to Amon Duul II to Faust, Hisko Detria have earned their place in a hazy netherworld of musical miscellany that defies semantic categories but appeals to open minds worldwide.