Ubiquitous, instantaneous access to all of history's cultural nooks and crannies is a double edged sword that both neatly slices open the corpus of history, revealing the glistening treasures in its gut, and cuts us amateur coroners off at the knees. Used to be, you had to be (or be in good with) some troll who spent hours in dusty record racks and have logged countless garage sale hours to wallow in the rich pleasures I am about to set before you on the paper plate that is this little column. Just like every other worthwhile hermetic pursuit like computer programming and ham radio, it has been sped up and simplified and ruined by the internet. Spilt milk, I say. I send some folks aghast when I reveal that I got rid of my vinyl a long time ago. Time moves on, people. To quote the under-quoted (and probably unavailable) early Severed Heads LP: "Clifford darling, please don't live in the past."
Psychedelic Phinland: Finnish Hippie & Underground Music 1967-1974
Thankfully, a number of thoughtful souls have crafted amazing dioramas from the embers of their burning passions much like this massive one documenting the Finnish psychedelic scene of the 60s and 70s. Nobody in their right mind would be into this stuff enough to be an expert, so I will leave the damaging of minds to the exhaustive liner notes, should you be foolhardy enough to want to know more, I will merely transmit that the compilation is amazing. Psychedelic Phinland disc one consists of the more rockist side of our freaky Arctic drum circle dwellers, starting fittingly with Topmost's "The End" a burn-out soliloquy over church bells and humming of the transmuted nature of beginning and ends, blowing your mind at the end but saying "if you turn the record over you can hear it all again...gain...gain..." Then is descends into some backwards tape monkey man business. If you were a collector of out singles, this would be the blazing sun rising over your collection.
The rest of disc one, all 1.2 hours of it, is a grab bag of psyche of varying quality, but when it hits, you go down hard. Hector & Oscar's "Savu" is a Love-inspired bit of loveliness that is waiting for T Anderson to sweep it up, and Kukkasen Valta's "Jukka Kuoppam?§ki" is a romantic Serge Gainsbourg bit of wiggy easy listening. The dopest numbers comes from "Blues Section" with their streetwise epic "Cherry Cup-Cake Twist" and Wigwam's Animals/Doors wipeout "Must be The Devil." As the comp moves on, things get darker with Eero Koivistoinen's "Pient?§ Peli?§ Urbaanissa Limousinessa" (I really want to make a marble mouthed college DJ butcher this on air) and the funk strut of Charlies' "Taiteen Kritiikiss?§." Surprisingly, Finnish, a language I always considered a rather abrupt one, sounds perfect barked out with long-hair drug-addled swagger.
Much like the rest of the world, it seems the 70's were less kind to Finnish hippies, as the latter tracks like Juice Leskinen Coitus Int's "Zeppelini" and Hector (flying solo now) and his cheese blintz of synth "Meiran Laulu" and the tracks around it are interesting for novelty sake alone. It closes out with anarchist thinker Markku Into's spoken rant "Olen Puhunut Utopiaa" which would possible open my horizons had I a working command of Finnish. I'm still perversely compelled to put mount speakers on my Corrolla and broadcast it to the squares, just to shake up the little Viking nugget left in to their souls.
The second disc is the more rewarding listen, in that it explores the real backwoods weirdness that led up to the current burgeoning Finnish free-folk movement. The band Those Lovely Hula Hands dominate the disc with their fucked tropicalia epic "Tarzan Apornas Apa/Tarzan Gregah/Jane Porter Sivistyksen Muurilla" and cuckoo clock nightmare "Menev?§t Miehet.' It is psychedelic tape chopping wizardry at it best, mixed with some zombie male and female singing over a droning violin and pan pipes. Their later track "Miss?§ On Marilyn?" has more of a Hair-soundtrack feel to it, but is still a slab of lysergic wonder. Early electronics get showcased on aurora hippiales numbers like Pekka Airaksinen's "Fos 2" and S?§hk??kvartetti's "Kaukana V?§ijyy Yst?§vi?§". You know, we have been threatening around the office to start doing outsideLeft podcasts, and it would be a personal challenge to start with this one, rife with dazzling unpronounceable.
The spirit stick for disc two belongs squarely to a collective known as The Sperm, who on their 16-minute epic "Hein?§sirkat I" track the origin of life through low throbs and primitive tape effects, building up layers upon layers of glacial replication until it evolves into a soundwave destructor belched forth from the larynx of Cthulu. The last six minutes of it are taken with brain-peircing feedback and lopey whalesong bloops echoing throughout it. It has precisely the kind of techno-primitive, future-retro scratch that my particular itch seeks.
The standout band from this long-sunk ship of fools is Baby Grandmothers, who are graced with an appearance on side one abut are given their own eponymous release. Compared to much of the cultural mishmash on this compilation, baby Grandmothers come off as rather straight until you let this unearthed masterpiece roll undeterred by expectation. "Somebody Keeps Calling My Name" is a powerhouse slow-burn, like the Brian Jonestown Massacre if they traded their skater-rattiness for Viking muscle. The shit is all groove and solo, and perfect for it. "Being More than Life" is the single and frankly the root of the record. It's a Sabbath doom lament that will leave amp residue on your brain after you are done with it. If you have managed to get over you tired indie-rock aversion to guitar solos, each record on Baby Grandmothers will be balm to your ears. "Bergakungen" is a 16-minute stretch-out of much of themes unearthed in "Being More than life" almost like watching the track on slow motion. My guess is you have time to kill in the Finnish winters, since this is flowed by a 19-minute "Being More than Life 2" taken form a live performance. I'd say the band was set on eclipsing the sun with this monster, but they don't exactly get much sun up there, do they? This is followed up by a power gird breakdown number "St. George's Dragon" sounding like the wave motion gun from the Space Battleship Yamato leaving you, the listener, sapped for energy after its effect has passed. All you have left is the Ragnarok death-boogie of "Raw Diamond" offering the coldest of comfort.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com