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2 Jan 2017

Pekka Streng & Tasavallan Presidentti “Magneettimiehen Kuolema” 1970 Finland Psych Folk Rock

Pekka Streng & Tasavallan Presidentti  “Magneettimiehen Kuolema” 1970 Finland Psych Folk Rock
PEKKA STRENG (26.4.1948 - 11.4.1975) was both a mystic and a tragic character, being a pioneer of the small scene of Finnish psychedelic folk music. At late 1960’s he participated in activities of The University Student Theatre, and he also did some radio plays which made so good impression to the staff at YLE (Finnish Radio Broadcast co.), that he was recommended to Otto Donner, who invited Pekka to do recordings for the famous Love Records label. On these albums along with the help famous Finnish musicians Pekka sings and plays acoustic guitar, and also all of the songs and lyrics on these records are written by him. 
His first record “Magneettimiehen Kuolema” (”The Death of A Magnet Man”, 1970) was done with the famous prog band TASAVALLAN PRESIDENTTI. This album holds themes of oriental philosophies and religions, and the most famous track on it is the song “Sisältäni Portin Löysin” (“I Found a Gate Within Myself”), which describes poetically the process of consciousness expansion, and it has also been performed by many other famous Finnish artists. There are also other interesting tunes on it, like euphoric “Gilgamesh”, “Olen Erilainen” (“I’m Different”) and “Pitkä Kieli” (“Long Tongue”). 
The second album “Kesämaa” (”Summerland”, 1970) was done with another league of famous Finnish musicians featuring Olli Ahvenlahti, Eero Koivistoinen, Hasse Walli and Pekka Pöyry. The overall feeling of the records is a bit more warm-hearted and clearer than it’s more psychedelic predecessor, but it too has fine artistic and surreal elements in it. Also along with Pekka’s poems there are also some texts of other authors there, like TOVE JANSSON. 
Sadly during his military service at 1967 Pekka had got a cancer, and the awareness of his dangerous illness surely affected his artistic career. He died at the age of 26 leaving behind only two finished albums and plans for the third album, which never got recorded. There was a memorial concert held for both Pekka and Matti Kurkinen (member of band KALEVALA who died at same year) at Kulttuuritalo, with performers like Jukka Tolonen, Rock’n’Roll Band, Albert Järvinen and KALEVALA. 
Though Pekka was never an extremely popular artist, he has a strong cult status, his records have been selling in a constant flow, and there are some neat remastered CD’s of his albums on the markets. Though he had fans during his lifetime, he was never interested of publicity, and he gave only one interview, which was published posthumously. His position is definitely among the other 1970’s Finnish progressive artists like WIGWAM and TASAVALLAN PRESIDENNTI, though his Finnish sung works may not be as accessible to non-Finnish speaking audiences than to Finns…..

I have reviewed Kesämaa already and now I concentrate on the first half of this 2-in-1 disc (‘Death of a Magnetic Man’ means the album title, and the leaflet has a strange little prose- poem piece about the phases of the protagonist). As I have said, I prefer the more happy and jazzy Kesämaa. Relistening yesterday guaranteed me of that. It’s not just that it’s more easy to get into, it’s also much better done, both musically and lyrically. Here things are rougher, more sketch-like, as Pekka is adventurously wandering in the strange marshlands of psychedelia. The tracks are not that short (even with 13 tracks Kesämaa clocks at 32 min. approx.); as if on this debut album the same (or maybe lesser) amount of substance is spread over a longer time. For example lyrics are used very sparingly and include a lot of fillerlines (“na-naa-na-naa-aah”) and the players aren’t given clear soli as on Kesämaa. That gives this album a sort of “where are we going?” feeling. But as Pekka WAS a pioneer in this field in Finland, that isn’t so bad thing at all. 
'Gilgames’ is a peaceful acoustic opener based on the ancient narrative. That and 'A Song About an Insect That Fell Asleep in the Bed of Rose’ would fit perfectly into the latter album too. And why not also the serene closer, 'Sisältäni portin löysin’ (I Found a Gate Inside Me) - better known as a TASAVALLAN PRESIDENTTI number. The rest is more far-out psychedelic folk-rock stuff with peculiar lyrics, here and there even slightly disturbing. “I am different”, “I am an animal” and “I am tired” are three titles’ meanings. On one song he invites everybody to join him on a gigantic tongue, on another he floats on the mythical river of life and death or something like that. In all its charming aura it tends to get a bit tiring towards the end (and when my CD starts playing Kesämaa I’m much happier). But nevertheless, a definite classic in Finnish popular music…. by Matti …….

Officially a release by Pekka Streng & Tasavallan Presidentti, usually Magneettimiehen kuolema is considered the first of the two Pekka Streng (solo) albums. One of the essential psychedelic pop records in Finland, it also contains one of the most artificial(-sounding) psych album titles ever: 'Death of the Magnet Man.’ However, the album itself is less forced, containing a sound of its very own. It is far from perfect, especially because Pekka was far from a good singer. Still, “Sisältäni portin löysin” and “Olen erilainen” are fine little soft-psych-pop songs and “Olen väsynyt” is a rare case of avant-garde poetry that is really psychedelic. And please don’t worry, you will find your familiar-while-weird backward sounds and India influences here too….by….fairyeee ……….

Line-up / Musicians 
- Pekka Streng / vocals, acoustic guitar 

- Måns Groundstroem / bass, piano 
- Jukka Tolonen / guitar, piano 
- Pekka Pöyry / tenor saxophone, flute 
- Vesa Aaltonen / drums, bongo 

Additional musicians: 
- Karoly Garam / cello 
- Esko Rosnell / drums, bongo, tabla 
A1 Gilgames 1:58 
A2 Kylmä Kaupunki 3:07 
A3 Olen Erilainen 3:43 
A4 Pitkä Kieli 4:26 
A5 Makea Sandra 3:18 
A6 Laulu Hyönteisestä Joka Nukahti Ruusun Vuoteeseen 1:48 
B1 Takaisin Virtaan 7:07 
B2 Olen Eläin 3:04 
B3 Ahnehtiva Kud 2:49 
B4 Olen Väsynyt 2:00 
B5 Sisältäni Portin Löysin 5:06

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..