Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pärson Sound-Pärson Sound (1966-68/2001)

"Parson Sound was one of the earliest and most radical experimental rock bands of Sweden and the nucleus of a lineup that went on to become International Harvester, Harvester, and eventually, Trad Gras Och Stenar. With their expansive intake of styles as diverse as West Coast psychedelic music and the Velvet Underground's minimalism while still retaining a hint of their Swedish roots, Parson Sound created an unusual sound similar to early Krautrock, though predating its beginning by a year. The group began in Stockholm in the spring of 1967 shortly after a visit to Sweden by minimalist composer Terry Riley to perform his classic "In C," as well as a new work with Swedish school children called "Olson III." Guitarist Bo Anders Persson, a student at the Royal Academy of Music who had already experimented with tape music, participated in the "In C" and was deeply inspired by Riley's open-minded aesthetic in contrast to the stifling atmosphere of the university. Persson started Parson Sound as a free improvisational group with cello player Arne Ericsson, also from the Academy; bassist Torbjörn Abelli, a music student at the University of Stockholm; and radio journalist and poet Thomas Tidholm, who met Persson while working on an article. Thomas Mera Gartz, previously the drummer for the psychedelic beat group Mecki Mark Men, soon joined the group and in the next year, others came and went in the loose collective, including Urban Yman, Bengt Berger, Bjorn Fredholm, and Kjell Westling. By summer 1967, Parson Sound was performing before audiences in cafés, clubs, and festivals and they also gigged a couple times on Swedish radio in September and December of that year. Parson's repetitive and hypnotic riffs were quite similar in sound to the Velvet Underground in its more improvised phase, so it was only fitting that in February 1968 they were part of an Andy Warhol exhibit at Stockholm's Museum of Modern Art. Eventually, the group coalesced around Persson, Abelli, Tidholm, Ericsson, and Yman and by summer 1968, they had changed their name to International Harvester to further refine their sound. This group would eventually become Trad Gras Och Stenar, while several of Parson's alum went on to another progressive experimental group, Arbete Och Fritid."

"During my long holiday break, I not only found time to listen to a lot of music that I'd missed from the past year, but also dove back into the back catalogue of my collection with wild abandon and re-discovered a lot of music that I realized I wish I had more time to listen to on a regular basis. One of the albums that was played on multiple occasions (out of earshot of my wife, as she hates this stuff) was the double-disc self-titled release by Párson Sound, an underground Swedish psych rock band from the late 60s that created insane music that still destroys much of what is being recorded today.

The very early roots of the band were formed in 1966, when a musician named Bo Anders Persson started compositional studies at the Royal Academy, but felt a bit hemmed-in by the emphasis on technique and theories. Only a year later, Terry Riley visited Sweden, and Perrson was one of the musicians who took place in a performance of the classic In C, furthering his notions of creating more experimental and improvisational music that incorporated elements of folk and rock music. In a rapid burst, a batch of musicians came together, playing everything from traditional instruments to tape loops, amplified electric cello, saxophone, flute, and more.

Many members of the group (including Persson) would later morph into such groups as International Harvester, Harvester, Trád, and Grás Och Stenar, and while all of those incarnations had stellar moments, none of them capture the almost feverish intensity of these original sessions. Originally recorded for a wide variety of outlets (including rehearsals, outdoor park performances, and sessions for live radio), the recording quality isn't always the greatest, but the sheer hypnotic quality of the music more than makes up for any deficiencies.

It's music that's hard to classify today, and probably split even more heads open when it was originally recorded. "From Tunis To India In Fullmoon (On Testosterone)" is literally one of the most noisy, minimal psych tracks I've ever heard. Clocking in at over twenty minutes, it chugs forward relentlessly with a doom-riffic rhythm section as guitars, electric cello and soprano saxophone wail away and joust with one another while building up some delicious tension and release. "One Quiet Afternoon (In The King's Garden)" captures a recording from a restaurant performance (I can only imagine being there) where the group layers multiple tape loop, flute, and string drones over pounding drums and guitars before the entire thing gets swallowed up in a creepy haze that sounds like the group is trying to contact spirits from beyond the grave.

In places, they do sound a smidgen more of-their-time, but even the more traditional opening section of "Sov Gott Rose-Marie" morphs into a sort of primordial drone-rock that pretty much melts away any of the more lighthearted melodies that came before it. Showing a completely different side of their personality is "On How To Live," where an open-air recording adds delightful nature sounds to an open-air acoustic park jam that predates groups like The Blithe Sons by over three decades. The release even contains a tape-loop and voice meditation by Persson himself that sounds ages ahead of its time as well.

In their fairly short period under this name, Párson Sound exploded with ideas, and even managed to find some high-profile accolades, opening for The Doors and even playing at the opening of an Andy Warhol exhibition at the museum of Modern Art in Stockholm at his request. It's just over two hours worth of music that's incredibly expressive and intense, and unfortunately out of print again. If you must have the CD, good luck hunting it down, otherwise the excellent digital-only re-release label Anthology Recordings has just made it part of their high-quality catalogue."

Ooooh boy. This one is a monster. A big, scary Scandinavian, doomy, drone-happy monster. Insanely stunning for the time it was recorded (1966-68) and equally perplexing that virtually no one got to hear this until this very decade. I can't say enough good things about these sessions and this band. It's a shame they didn't stick together for the long run but I'm fucking elated with what we've got and I'm betting you will be too.

Parte uno

Parte dos


Anonymous said...

Heres a review of 4 tracks from this

The Thing That Should Not Be said...

thanks for this. Heard the name around and figured I'd try before I buy - Theres a vinyl version just out!

Anonymous said...

Takk for en interessant blogg