Friday, June 6, 2008

The Sperm, SHH!

O Records, 1970; reissued on CD-R by Pekka Airaksinen; availability uncertain

LP: 4 tracks, 50:52; CD-R: 8 tracks, 69:33

What exactly WAS going on in Europe in the 70s?!?! Finland had its own psychedelic and cosmic scene during this time, as well documented on the ARCTIC HYSTERIA and PSYCHEDELIC PHINLAND compilations. Perhaps the most infamous product of said scene was the Sperm. A loose collective, the Sperm left precious little music behind, but what they DID record is amazing. Like some unholy cross between Fripp & Eno and Kluster, SHH! features four long tracks of tape-and-guitar processing. The guitar hardly ever sounds remotely like it's supposed to, instead creating avant soundscapes. "Heinäsirkat I" is a great example of this. A strange pinging/echoing sound begins the track, which over its sixteen-plus minutes manages to cover both extreme guitar sludge and buzzing insectoid sounds (appropriate, since the track's name translates to "Locusts"). Interestingly enough, a lot of the guitar sounds were made by Pekka Airaksinen (using multiple tape decks and effects) in a converted sauna! "Korvapoliklinikka Hesperia" ("The Ear Clinic Hesperia") features even more extreme treatments, and strange female vocals (probably from a tape). The true oddity is "Jazz Jazz", which indeed seems to mainly feature a saxophone on top of some feedback ambiance. "Dodekafoninen Talvisota" ends the album proper with a lengthy piece of audio art. Clangs, hums, rattles, percussion.... all add up to a twenty-minute masterpiece of avant-garde music. It may be a stretch, but some of these tracks could be considered early examples of drone doom. Sperm member Pekka Airaksinen reissued SHH! as a CD-R a while back; the CD-R has all four tracks from SHH! plus a suite of four tracks recorded in '71. The bonus tracks aren't as jarring as the SHH! material, but they make a nice addition. To the best of my knowledge, the Sperm's output consisted solely of SHH! and the follow-up EP 3RD ERECTION. All of their material is recommended, especially to fans of Fripp & Eno, Kluster, Caspar Brötzmann, and Nurse With Wound. Airaksinen also had a noteworthy solo career; his extremely rare ONE POINT MUSIC is especially worth tracking down.

*UPDATE! There is a very limited vinyl-only reissue of this available from De Stijl. Grab it while you can!

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