Wigwam / Taivaanvuohi - Pop-Liisa 3&4 (Svart Records)

Svart Records continues their reissue series with a double volume of recently unearthed John Peel approved Finnish jazz/prog acts

Released Apr 15th, 2016 via Svart Records / By Norman Miller
Wigwam / Taivaanvuohi - Pop-Liisa 3&4 (Svart Records) For many, their musical education was shaped by diverse BBC sessions recorded by the late great John Peel. And here is an intriguing Nordic riposte from that era.

Between 1972-77, Finland's national radio station YLE (Yleisradio) recorded 36 sessions at Helsinki's Liisankatu studios, showcasing artists at the forefront of the Finnish jazz, prog and avant-rock scene. Long locked away in dusty archives, Svart Records are giving us a chance to hear some of the best, kicking off with eight sessions (two per album) from 1973 and 1975.

Session numbers 3 and 4 pair up the prog-rockers Wigwam and jazz-rock quintet Taivaanvuohi.

Wigwam's instrumental bits are much better than their singing bits. The opening cover of Lennon's then-new Imagine is lame, while Marvelry Skimmer (Friends From The Field) sounds like Joe Cocker on a bad day.

But Fairyport is great when the vocals take a back seat to the jazz-rock, a mix of artful percussive noodling and showy keyboard pyrotechnics – plus a fine slice of what sounds spookily like out-takes from Deep Purple's iconic Machinehead. Critics, of course, would point to its 14-minute length as a bad case of prog bloat. Or you could just go with it, man.

Nipistys is like a meld of Rick Wakeman and Focus – and it's good, with Jukka Gustavson's driving organ, Jim Pembroke's breathless keyboard solos, Ronnie Osterberg's skittering drums with thundering fills and fine bass from Pekka Pohjola. Grass For Blades has plenty to dazzle too – the interplay between bass and organ, in particular - as it surges along with a blend of Purple's rock edge, Procol Harum's pop hooks and jazzy looseness.

Taivaanvuohi – Tarmo Rosenlund (vocals), Pertti Paivinen (alto sax, flute), Sami Hurmerinta (guitar, vocals), Urpo Siitonen (electric bass) and Ismo Raisanen (drums) – take a delightfully scattergun approach to their Finnish jazz-rock thing.

The frenetic, slightly bonkers Drop Drag nods to Zappa, John McLaughlin, Van Der Graaf Generator and Gong, apart from a gorgeous delicate guitar opening. Shedding kicks off in similarly sensitive fashion before heading into jazzy wig-out.

The flute and sweet guitar-led Gloom could be early Genesis, though things get ballsier when Hurmerinta starts jabbing sharp little guitar riffs into the mix – the whole thing ending with a spiky blast of horns called Muukalaiset Yossa.

The 10-minute Forward Sound is the stand-out here, a jazz-rock gem that kicks off in a high-tempo fusion of sax, bass and drums, neatly cut-up by clever funked-up breaks – the best when Paivinen and Hurmerinta indulge in a brilliant sax v guitar duel.

The Zappa influences on Drop Drag are made manifest with the final track, a sprightly cover of Frank's Orange Country Lumber Truck that the great man would probably applaud from the after life.