Various Artists "Psychedelic Phinland - Finnish Hippie & Underground Music 1967-1974"
Jukka Lindfors is a venerable expert in the field of Finnish popular (& unpopular) music who, besides work in radio etc., has curated several collections of Finnish music from the past decades (released by the legendary Love Records) that should be of interest to every Foxy Digitalis reader. Some of you might already be familiar with his two anthologies of avant garde musics, "Arctic Hysteria" and "Son of Arctic Hysteria" that gathered together heaps of hard-to-find weird and brilliant recordings from four decades. This year also saw the release of "Folk! From Hootenanny to Protest 1964-66" and now, "Psychedelic Phinland," a true treasure trove of psychedelic jams, freak outs and curiosities.
The first disc of this two-disc compilation (dedicated to the memory of writer Jarkko Laine, who passed away this august) concentrates on some of the better known names in Finnish rock and pop music with a psychedelic bent, with some oddities thrown in for good measure.
The fantastic Blues Section is represented by "Cherry Cup-cake Twist", a single from 1968, which is a fine example of their beautiful blend of pop melodies, psychedelia and (free) jazz influences. The guys from Blues Section would form the bedrock of the Finnish prog and jazz-rock scene of the 70's in groups like Piirpauke, Wigwam, Tasavallan presidentti and several Love Records jazz releases. Wigwam features here with their first single "Must Be the Devil", a bluesy rock number. Tasavallan presidentti, on the other hand, can be heard as Pekka Streng's backing group on "Olen erilainen". "Pient? peli? urbaanissa limousinessa" is a composition by Blues Section's saxophonist Eero Koivistoinen (with lyrics by the previously mentioned Jarkko Laine), hard-hitting and very groovy rock that veers into an all-out free outro.
Baby Grandmothers are the only non-Finnish group here. They were from Sweden, but released their one and only single in Finland, produced by the inimitable M.A. Numminen. "Being Is More Than Life" is a fabulous guitar excursion into inner space, oozing with pot smoke. M.A. Numminen can be found elsewhere on this collection, including a couple of songs by Suomen Talvisota 1939-40, an experimental/dadaist rock/pop group that involved a revolving group of musicians and writers. Suomen talvisota's "Kasvoton kuolema ja Sirhan Sirhan" (also with lyrics by Laine), sung by perennial pop favourite Rauli "Badding" Somerjoki, is a classic, later covered, with even more intensity, by art punks Se (their version is unfortunately not included here).
The very 'eavy, very 'umble Apollo perform "Ajatuksia" with a slow-burning intensity. Rock group Charlies set Mao Zedong's writing to electric boogie music on "Taiteen kritiikist?" and actually manage to make the chairman's words groove.
Hector (aka Heikki Harma), who's been around for decades and still going strong (well, that's debatable), is here represented with two songs. The earlier "Savu", from his folkie-period, is a cringe-inducing drug tale, which, I guess, was included on the cd as a curio. Fortunately, Lindfors also included "Meiran laulu" from Hector's classic prog/psych album Herra Mirandos. It is a beautiful and mysterious song and the whole album is well worth tracking down.
For some strange reason, Lindfors has also included two songs by the awful Jukka Kuoppam?ki. On "Kukkasen valta" Kuoppam?ki bleats in his singular vocal style in defense of the young hippie generation. "Aurinkomaa" was Kuoppam?ki's entry in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest and what do you know, it's actually really good, a bright and sunshiny sort-of-psychedelic pop song. Way better than anything the 2006 Eurovision winners Lordi have ever done.
Other curiosities on disc one include rock group Topmost's tape-collage "The End", poet Markku Into's spoken-word manifesto "Olen puhunut utopiaa" and Jorma Ik?valko's "Hippijortsut P?hk?l?ss?", a mean-spirited put-down of "hippies" and electric guitars.
Disc two is where Lindfors really shines as a curator. Whereas disc one features a lot of hard-to-find music, disc two mostly falls into the category of "totally impossible to find", with some of the recordings released here for the first time ever (and the others unavailable on cd).
Pekka Airaksinen, The Sperm, S?hk?kvartetti/The Electric Quartet and J.O. Mallander should already be familiar to those who have had the chance to hear Arctic Hysteria. Airaksinen's "Fos 2" and The Sperm's "Hein?sirkat I" (which is also by Airaksinen) are brilliant guitar drone/noise pieces. Mallander's "Degnahc Ev'uoy" is the jazz standard "You've Changed" played backwards. The Electric Quartet's "Kaukana v?ijyy yst?vi?" also featured on the Arctic Hysteria collection, but here we get to hear an alternate version, a more low-key affair compared to the all-out noise barrage on Arctic Hysteria.
Those Lovely Hula Hands was a group formed by underground artist Timo Aarniala (his drawing "Quasimodo, the Bell-ringer of the Notre-Dame, Composing in the Desert" graces the cover of this collection). The earlier incarnation of the group was an all-acoustic quintet (most of them teenagers), playing a sort of free-folk music ("Menev?t miehet" sounds uncannily like Kiila) on recorders, guitars, violins etc. By the 70's, the group had changed into a more rock-oriented formation, but still have that hippie jam -spirit on "Miss? on Marilyn?"
Siki?t and Kruununhaan Dynamo were two groups featuring largely the same cast of musicians and non-musicians. Dynamo's "Simple Things" and Siki?t's "Side One" are almost stereotypical hippie jams (but very good, mind you) with tribal percussions, flutes, harmonium and so on. "Trippin' Together" by Siki?t gets into a more ramshackle marijuana-fuelled atmosphere, but manage to find a nice droning groove.
All in all, Lindfors has done well once again and even though "Psychedelic Phinland" sometimes seems to be a bit too scattershot on the first disc (and of course, one could argue about some of Lindfors's inclusions and non-inclusions), it's an essential listen to all interested parties. And all you non-finnish speakers out there, you'll be glad to hear that Lindfors's informative liner notes are all in English. 9/10 -- Ville Forss (9 January, 2007)