Pop Liisa: Tasavallan Presidentti / Jukka Hauru Superkings (Svart Records)

Jazz prog meets Blaxploitation in Svart Records' new pair of reissues

Released May 31st, 2016 via Svart Records / By Norman Miller
Pop Liisa: Tasavallan Presidentti / Jukka Hauru Superkings (Svart Records) Bearded continues its delve into distinctive 1970s Nordic sounds over 36 sessions captured between 1972-77 by Finland's national radio station YLE (Yleisradio). Their recordings at Helsinki's Liisankatu studios showcase a host of artists at the forefront of the Finnish jazz, prog and avant-pop scene of the time. Long locked away in dusty archives, Svart Records are giving us a chance to hear some of the best.

This week, your brave scribe lies in a darkened room for a double-whammy of avant jazzy pop and rock from 1973.

First up is Tasavallan Presidentti, a five-piece featuring Eero Koivistoinen (vocals, percussion), Jukka Tolonen (guitar), Pekka Poyry (sax, flute, piano and electric piano), Heikki Virtanen (electric bass) |and Vesa Aaltonen (drums). They 'only' give us two tracks – but don't worry about being short-changed, as they're both very long....

Lennosta Kii (over 19 minutes) doesn't start off well, with the first three minutes sounding like a bunch of insects trapped in a jazz jar followed by what sounds like strangulated Finnish yodelling. But then it gets fun as the guys head off into undulating musical terrain.

There are several minutes of sax and electric piano that sound like a jazzy Doors, then a section that sounds like a Finnish precursor to Peter Hammill's 1975 masterpiece Nadir's Big Chance (aka One Of The Greatest Albums Of All Time). They can't quite keep up the standard for the full journey but credit for about eight minutes of brilliance.

Jukka Tolonen's 14-minute Dance shows more consistency along with its fair share of the musically leftfield. Its first few minutes veer between twangy dark country, surf rock and something vaguely Indian, before a middle section dominated by some fiery guitar that's a bit like Al Dimeola, complemented by cool flute and vocalising that is part chant, part Finnish groaning. You'll like it.

Jukka Hauru & Superkings share two of the personnel from Tasavallen (Aaltonen and Vertanen), along with Hauru on electric guitar, Juhanni Poutanen on violin, Olli Ahvenlahti on Fender Rhodes and Reino Laine on congas, marimba and glockenspiel.

Musically, they've a fair bit in common with the fantastic Taavaantemppeli reviewed previously - though not quite as brilliant. But each of the four tracks here – each between eight and 13 minutes, three of them written by Hauru - offers something to get your teeth into.

Mai Ling is like a gypsy Gong (see-sawing guitar, great violin, zany keyboard), while both Twilight Time and Angel at various points sound like super-fly soundtracks to a car chase in a Blaxploitation movie. Elegy Elegio shows the band's quieter side by conjuring up memories of Camel, like The Snow Goose done as reflective jazz rock.