Various Artists: Love Psychedelic Phinland

[Love; 2007]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: foreign ’60s psychedelia, stoner rock, kitsch
Others: Nuggets, Sublime Frequencies, Shadoks reissues

Are you ready for your lesson in Finnish Rock history? The answer is probably not, and I’m certainly not the person to give it to you. But Psychedelic Phinland makes a wholehearted attempt at it by throwing its audience into its universe, head first. Stylistically all over the map, the word “psychedelic” is a little misleading for this compilation. While not overtly attached to its namesake, its eclectic extremes do help explain a little about where Dungen are coming from, and how Circle can characterize their enormous gamut of music as heavy metal. Yet simply knowing that this was all created by or in response to a radical counter culture is not enough context, allowing many of the tracks on these CDs to be complete head-scratchers.

Disc one begins with several mainstream tracks full of drug allusions and hippie parody. Ranging from über-bubblegum to the seemingly vaudeville-inspired, these tracks are interesting enough, but it isn’t until well into the disc that we actually hear what we’ve come to expect of Finnish psychedelic music. Resembling Krautrock, in addition to R&B-inspired acts like Cream and the Groundhogs, bands like Blues Section, Wigwam, and Baby Grandmothers are excellent examples of the genre, but unfortunately they only represent about a sixth of this collection. It’s part of Psychedelic Phinland’s agenda to cover all sects of Finish counter culture in the most didactic way possible. Also represented on disc one, although buried within another round of tracks that sound goofy and negligible to my unlearned self, are a couple stand-out, droning folkie numbers, like Pekka Streng’s raga-inspired “Olen Erilainen” (“I’m Different”) and the truly weird “Meiran Iaulu” (“Meira’s Song”). (Me thinks he’s singin’ about a boner!)

Disc two focuses on the more “experimental” side of Finnish music, and while this peaked my curiosity more than disc one, most of it doesn't sound “experimental” as much as it does like simple experiments. Being naïve to their history is a real setback here. Of course, most avant garde music of the ’60s and ’70s sounds dated and often primitive compared to what we have today (doesn’t all music?), but context is everything, and while I might pay to hear John Cale essentially fucking around with a keyboard over the course of a few discs, I’m not sure I would do the same for the guitar loops and tape delay of a band called The Sperm. The group Sähkökvartetti is texturally interesting, with electronic pulsations and detached vocals reminiscent of Kraftwerk and This Heat. Kruununhaan Dynamo and Sikiöt have a more organic sound, with tribal, drum circle chants typical of Amon Düül I. While most of this makes for perfectly fine background music, Those Lovely Hula Hands take the prize for most individualistic band on the second disc. If their efforts seem childlike, it might be because three of their members were only 13 and 14 years old, and they sound like the younger siblings of Os Mutantes and CocoRosie (complete with animal sounds).

No matter how frustrating, it's hard to fault Psychedelic Phinland for not following through with its concept of a broad survey, and on closer inspection, the inherent confusion it creates is actually part of the experience when listening to these foreign rock compilations. Like most samplers, there’s an exotic charm that comes from being an outsider with a naïve ear. Any fellow from Malaysia would likely find the knob twiddling on many of the Sublime Frequencies compilations to be a boring hodgepodge of their cultural wasteland, whereas most Westerners find them to be fascinating anthropological treasures. Then there’s the simple pleasure that comes with hearing an off-kilter take on traditional American and European rock form. Psychedelic Phinland is less a kitschy knock-off than it is a sheer curiosity, which is probably as much as we can expect from an introduction to the unfamiliar.

Disc 1:

1. Topmost – The End
2. Hector & Oscar – Savu (Smoke)
3. Jukka Kuoppamäki – Kukkasen (Power of the Flower)
4. Jorma Ikävalko – Hippijortsut Pöhkölässä (Hippie Ball at Nutsville)
5. Blues Section – Cherry Cup-cake Twist
6. Wigwam – Must Be the Devil
7. Baby Grandmothers: Being is More Than Life
8. Eero Koivistoinen – Pientä Peliä Urbaanissa Limousinessa (Small Games Inside an Urban Limousine)
9. Charlies – Taiteen Kritiikistä (On Art Criticism)
10. Apollo – Ajatuksia (Thoughts)
11. Suomen Talvisota 1939-40 – Kasvoton Kuolema ja Sirhan Sirhan (Faceless Death and Sirhan Sirhan)
12. Suomen Talvisota 1939-40 – Tehtaan Vahtimestarit (Factory Doormen)
13. Suomen Talvisota 1939-40 – Flaggorna Fladdrade i Gentlemannens WC (Flags Were Waving in the Gentlemen’s Toilet)
14. Tylympi Kohtalo – Näkemiin, Voi Hyvin Ystäväni (Farewell, Be Well My Friend)
15. Pekka Streng – Olen Erilainen (I’m Different)
16. Juice Leskinen & Coitus Int – Zeppeliini (Zeppelin)
17. Hector – Meiran Iaulu (Meira’s Song)
18. Jukka Kuoppamäki & Castanja – Aurinkormaa (Sun Land)
19. Markku Into – Olen Puhunut Utopiaa (My Talk Has Been Utopian) – excerpt

Disc 2:

1. Those Lovely Hula Hands – Tarzan Apornas apa/Tarzan Gregah/Jane Porter Sivistyksen Muurilla (Tarzan, the Ape of Apes/Tarzan Gregah/Jane Porter at the Border of Civilization)
2. Those Lovely Hula Hands – Menevät Miehet
3. Pekka Airaksinen – Fos 2
4. The Sperm – Heinäsirkat I (Locusts I)
5. Sähkökvartetti – Kaukana Väijyy Ystäviä (Far Away Lurk Friends) – excerpt
6. Kruununhaan Dynamo – Simple Things – excerpt
7. Sikiöt – Side Once
8. Sikiöt – Trippin’ Together
9. Those Lovely Hula Hands – Missä on Marilyn? (Where is Marilyn?)
10. J.O. Mallander – Degnahc Ev’uoy}}}

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