the finnish underground has received loads of praise and attention over the last few years. this is by no means undeserved, but many people make the mistake of assuming that this is a new phenomenon coming out of the great white north. this is simply not the case. over the course of the next few weeks, i am going to do some posts talking about some of the great music finns were producing in the '60s, '70s, & '80s.
first up is the magnificent pekka streng
. i'm honestly not sure how many albums he released, but what must be his two best, "kesämaa" and "magneettimiehen kuolema" (w/ tasavallan presidentti) were reissued in 2003 on love music
streng's music is reminiscent of american and british luminaries such as nick drake, leonard cohen, & donovan. his music is fairly song-oriented, but with a distinct psychedelic bend. lyrically, i have no clue what he's saying (it's all in finnish, which to me makes it even better) - but i've been told alot of his lyrics are drawn from children's stories (he also used to perform children's radio plays before he was a musician, apparently).
these two albums are steeped in the rainbow of psych-folk's predecessors. streng is a gifted songwriter and composer - the arrangements and ancillary musicianship on these records is magical. from the soft opening guitar plucks and flute waves of "gilgames," you are instantly transported to place with trees in full-bloom and oceans of flowers covering the ground. it's heartbreakingly beautiful. the leonard cohen similarities are most audible on "kylmä kaupunki," but there are also hints of bill fay's inspired work.
streng's music has an underlying gentleness to it all, like great care was taken to make sure listeners feel like they're in the cradle of their lover's arms. these are albums that exude joy and beauty (even though i have no clue what he's saying). even on the most psychedelic excursions, like the mini-epic "takaisin virtaan," it is simplicity that overwhelms. this piece is filled with effects and electronics that sound ahead of their time, but throughout streng's soft voice guides you to the promised land.
eastern influences also make an appearance on these albums. "auringon lapsi," for example, is guided by a simple table beat. also, this eastern-ness is perhaps exaggerated by my belief that finnish sounds and awful lot like japanese.
there is a darker side here, too - at least musically (he could be singing about butterflies, for all i know). songs like "kaukana" and "mutta minä lähden" have an eerie feeling to them, like a person confronting their mortality head on. it's absolutely stunning, and even those these songs are short, they leave perhaps the longest lasting impression.
streng's voice is the best thing here, though. i have no idea what he's saying, but i don't care - i could simply listen to his enchanting voice for hours on end and not get tired of it. he's clearly an ultra-talented songwriter as these songs transcend any language constraints. streng died in 1975 from cancer and these two albums are the only legacy he left. 31 tracks of blissed out psychedelic finnish folk from the early '70s. seriously folks, it doesn't get much better than this. 10/10 most assuredly.
update w/ MP3s:gilgameskylmä kaupunkiroope hattu