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Sperm - Shh! 1970 (1998)


The Finnish underground movement started to formulate after Jimi Hendrix's year 1967 concert at Helsinki's Kultturitalo venue, and as the news from Monterey's hippie concerts stranded to the far-away arctic peninsula. On that year art critic J.O. Mailander, film director Peter Widén and musician Pekka Airaksinen formed a group named as "Pyhät Miehet" (Holy Men) in Helsinki. Later that year the group was joined by writer and performer Mattijuhani Koponen, who would be a clear leader of the collective establishing its final name Sperm. Along with Turku-based group Suomen Talvisota, they were the true pioneers of 1960's underground movement in Finland.

Though the few recorded music albums along with some fuzzy photographs are the only available documentations of Sperm's artistic activity, they were witnessed to commit to all kinds of happenings, stage plays, festivals, performances and concerts. Their dadaistic and aggressively chaotic primitive approach was a new thing in a civilization with severe mental scars from the early 20th century wars, but most shocking impact of their activity were their focus to sexual themes, aggressive opposing of formal society's standard values, and open adornment of the shunned weed-smelling lifestyles related to hippie movement.

In the actual happenings, the musical elements were atavistic bellowing, random usage of pianos, flutes and self-constructed instruments, and all these being united to pre-recorded tapes following the logics of free association. Especially these recorded sequences and the early electronic ambiences on Sperm's musical appearance were mostly created by Pekka Airaksinen. These tonal concepts were freely adapted to analogue visual installations and acted performances. Music to one of these theater productions, "Sisyfos" from 1968, is preserved on Pekka Airaksinen's album "One Point Music" released 1972. From the levels of atonal chaos related to the Sperm's philosophy, the early album "3rd Erection" possibly gives a most correct hint, having Mattijuhani Koponen whipping out vocal free flow, and Airaksinen testing new tuning possibilities and playing methods of electric guitar.


The group's members got quite much publicity from their provocations, and Koponen was convicted to jail in 1969 from the obscenities of both performing a poem at an United Nations event dressed only to a wool cap and socks, and performing a sexual copulation with a woman upon a piano as part of a performance; A deed which was later claimed to be an acted out event without real penetration. In 1970 after Koponen was released from the prison, Sperm grouped for live concerts with Heikki Hietanen on keyboards, Nikke Nikamo (early Wigwam) on guitar, and Wando Suvanto playing drums. After touring Finland they recorded their most known album "Shh!" with Pekka Airaksinen, and his impact to the record was possibly stronger than the musical ideas borne from the live band's road trips. Later Airaksinen and Koponen were involved with a band Samsa-Trio doing more serene psych music, captured to an album released year 1972. During that time the rock scene in Finland had evolved further from underground avantgarde and commercial pop towards more non-political mainstream rock, left-wing political singing movements like Agit-Prop, progressive rock acts with lesser anarchistic motives (Wigwam, Tasavallan Presidentti etc), and transcendental psychedelia taking refugee to Pekka Streng's visionary albums. Though Pekka Airaksinen would continue his hermetic musical career actively, walking towards paths of Buddhism and new age avantgarde impressionism, the story of Sperm was eventually over.

The most significant impact of this group in my opinion was its sociological commitment; Being a fundamental part on the local movement which broke the stagnant mental atmosphere of post-war Finland, made the needs of demonizing both open sexuality and disagreement of social standards by practicing these misdeeds more minor. These pioneers had to pay the price through legal martyrdom, and after this reveal for the society that their shunned activities had not caused any harm, and through pragmatism the basis for moral hysteria was thus lowered. In my own personal contemplation the gained tolerance from authorities to such vulgarities and open disagreements of existing political system are signs of both civilisation and sophistication from the leaders, and the co-existence of these opposing forces strengthen the standards of practiced democracy, allow alternatives and choice of freedom for the citizens, and prove the tolerance of the state rulers following The Spirit of The Enlightenment.

Musically their 1968 freak out record could be admired as good artifact among the other similar albums on global scale, and their "Shh!" album a recommendable target for collectors of vintage avantgarde electronic psych recordings. The adorers of anarchist global hippie revolution movement might be interested of this group, being the persons doing this stuff at the early days in a small distant Nordic country. About the group's name, in many international occasions it has been formulated as THE Sperm, but the original Finnish name is simply Sperm. (Eetu Pellonpää)

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