Weekend Fun

Space Wale

Space Whale

The past two weekends were a lot of fun.

  • The Royal Technical College’s orchestra and several combined student choirs from Sweden and Finland performed Giuseppe Verdi’s 1874 Requiem, an intricate and operatic farewell to fellow composer Gioachino Rossini and poet Alessandro Manzoni.

    Hallwyl House: carving in the doorway between the ladies' drawing room and the Golden Salon.

    Hallwyl House: carving in the doorway between the ladies’ drawing room and the Golden Salon.

  • Gig with King Khan and the Shrines. Imagine a tall, psychedelic, semi-nude, portly, Canadian Wilson Pickett of Indian extraction belting out soul rock with a band consisting of extremely enthusiastic Germans. First time I’ve seen a horn section playing to a microphone stuck down the front of the lead singer’s hot pants.
  • Played Elfenland and Plato 3000.
  • Watched the 1955 Brando-Simmons-Sinatra-Blaine movie version of the 1950 musical Guys and Dolls. Impressed by Brando, didn’t know he could sing. Ugly sets and boring dialogue though. The reason that we watched it was that Jrette is playing Nicely-Nicely Johnson in an upcoming school production. Made me want to read some Damon Runyon.
  • Gig organised by Undergången with three unsigned Swedish psych acts. Space Whale are four very young and very strong musicians with excellent songs. They really blew me away! Besvärjelsen are a heavier and more metal-oriented quintet that I would really like to hear studio work from. And the Magic Jove trio are basically Cream. Extremely proficient musicians!
  • Hallwyl House: Swedish logging magnate’s daughter marries Swiss count and has some of 1890s Stockholm’s best architects and artists build them a town palace, no expenses spared, which she proceeds to fill with Early Modern art and craft objects. All of this remains in place and is now a museum, large parts of which is free of charge, and which is located a short walk from the Central Station.
King Khan

King Khan

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Five Good Psychedelic Pop Albums

Junior’s buddy expressed an interest in psychedelic pop. Here’s a selection of good albums, one for each decade. There is of course also heavier psych rock with prominent blues guitar in the tradition of Hendrix.

  • 60s. Beatles, Revolver
  • 70s. This decade produced a treasury of psych rock, prog rock and space rock, but I haven’t got a recommendation for something both poppy and psychedelic.
  • 80s. Stone Roses, The Stone Roses
  • 90s. Olivia Tremor Control, Music from the Unrealised Film Script ‘Dusk at Cubist Castle’
  • 00s. Of Montreal, Aldhil’s Arboretum
  • 10s. Tame Impala, Lonerism

See also my blog entry about good Swedish psych rock.

Subway Ticket Booth Dream

In this guest entry, my friend Milka Zelić reports on the gritty realities of public transport in Slumberland:

It wasn’t enough that I had a rough time at work last night. When I finally got to bed I ended up working a second shift.

Because of construction work on the subway a temporary ticket booth had been set up in the home of an Ethiopian family on the Rinkeby council estate. I had to settle in with my cash register, stamp and stuff in their little bathroom, which could somehow accommodate an extra table and chair (pretty many chairs actually, I had some trouble choosing). I relieved a girl who said working there had gone pretty well. The door was closed and the passengers had to knock civilly on it to get in.

Then I was receiving passengers in the family’s kitchen and had to assemble hamburgers for them. Do you want dressing with that? Onions? Mustard and ketchup? What would you like to drink? I’ve got a Lite Coke here that’s gone flat, will that do you? But what are people supposed to drink from? I clean a few drinking glasses that turn out to be not glasses, but a vase and a wide-necked bottle, and then I give that task up.

The passenger I’m serving, a blond man who come to think of it is pretty attractive, is losing his patience. I can sort of sympathise since everything is taking a lot of time, what with the dish washing and my trouble with the register. It’s suddenly turned into an old model with hundreds of buttons and I can only press them at random. But he’s also being a bit unreasonable. Suddenly he doesn’t want a ticket for his sister after all (come on!) and deletes stuff from the receipt (he apparently knows exactly how the register works) and now he doesn’t even want to pay for his burger. I object to that, and… I guess about here is where I woke up.

Psychedelic Spam

Now this is how you sell pens!

The squaw had disappeared into the thick under growth, leaving a track Queen Elizabeth I 2010 Mont Blanc Limited Edition White Rollerball like a hippo in the snow. Bud could have overtaken her, of course, and he could have made her take the baby back again. But he could not face the thought of it. He made no move at all toward pursuit, but instead he turned his face toward mont blanc boheme bleu Alpine, with some vague intention of turning the baby over to the hotel woman montblanc hemingway there and getting the authorities to hunt up its parents. It was plain enough that Meisterstuck Classique Red Fountain Pen the squaw Boheme Paso Boble Dark Red Rollerball had no right to it, else she would not have run off like that.

Self-Referential Ethan Miller

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I’ve been following Californian rock singer and guitarist Ethan Miller off and on since Comets on Fire‘s 2002 album Field Recordings from the Sun. I love his singing and psychedelic song writing. And so recently the song “Nomads” from the 2008 album Magnificent Fiend (with Miller’s current band Howlin’ Rain) has been playing in my head. I couldn’t quite make sense of the lyrics, so I checked on-line, and found them (perhaps predictably) to be stonerishly meandering. But also bluntly self-referential in a way that is either really stupid or neatly self-ironic. You be the judge, Dear Reader.

Cold and gray clouds staining the sounds
Straining the weight of a sorrowful sky
Wool on the trees, dust on the eves
The bark on the pines is worse than its bite

All of the lines have been lies this far
There is a feeling I must keep from you

These lines are crawling snakes up your open legs
You wear them pale and fine
This is the line I’ll give you true as the dawn
While the furious eye on the sun is upon us

The way your breasts dance while we’re making love
Now that is a line penned by a divinely guided hand

Was the line “Now that is a line penned by a divinely guided hand” penned by a divinely guided hand?

Drugs and Me

In the podcast liner notes to his new album (starting at 14:21), George Hrab talks to Milton Mermikidis for a space about how neither of them does any heavier drugs than caffeine. I realised that in close to five years of blogging, I’ve never talked specifically about my own drug abstinence, though I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m tee-total. So I thought I might say a few words on the subject.

The culturally accepted heavy drug in Sweden is alcohol, which is strongly mind-altering if used in a sufficient dose and lethal if overdosed. Drinking is so common here that if you don’t, then it calls for an explanation. The only other legal recreational drugs are nicotine, caffeine and theobromine. Illegal drugs are so rare in my circles that I can only recall encountering marijuana (let alone heavier drugs) three times in my life. One was in the Netherlands and one was when a prim American pop singer lit a small prim joint before a Stockholm gig.

Uppers and downers aren’t terribly interesting to me even as an observer. But I do take an interest in hallucinogens, to the extent that I love psychedelic music, film and art. I call psych music my vicarious high. But really, to me hallucinogens are just a chemical short cut to absurdism or surrealism, which I love. The Beatles famously did a lot of drugs. But they wrote all that (drug-) inspired music between trips. And the ground-breaking psychedelic studio tricks on their recordings were thought out in collaboration with a producer and sound engineers who had to be completely sober in order to achieve what they did with 1960s equipment.

So anyway, my not doing street drugs is no cause for surprise: we don’t in my circles. Still, people are surprised that I don’t drink. For instance, though I’m 38, my dad is still visibly peeved about it, which is kind of sweet. People my age aren’t expected to get drunk a lot, but most certainly shop at the liquor store one or two times a month, and knowing your wine and beer is sort of an expected cultural competence. So why don’t I, when most people do?

Finding out why a person does this and not that is complicated. You can go for the conscious reasons behind a decision, or some unconscious one, you can search for a cause in the past that has shaped a person to make her decide this and not that. Free will is a fuzzy thing. I’ll split the question in two.

Firstly, why didn’t I start drinking in my teens like everybody else? Well, I tried a few times, and I found that it tasted bad and had no effect on me in the doses I managed to down. I’ve never been inebriated. Also, I saw a lot of other kids drunk at parties, and I wasn’t impressed. Drunk people are stupid and boring. I like being smart, and drugs dull that edge, perhaps permanently.

Secondly, why don’t I start drinking now or try to get hold of street drugs? Well, the original reasons haven’t changed. Drink still tastes bad and I still prefer sober company. But I also have a feeling that people take drugs to still needs that I don’t have. Sung Marilyn Manson, “There’s a hole in our soul that we fill with dope”. There’s no hole in my soul that I’m aware of. I don’t feel any need to take a break from myself. I’m not shy, nor do I need anything to help me loosen up. On the contrary: I’m already all over the place. My friends have told me repeatedly that it’s a good thing that I don’t drink, bearing in mind how I behave when sober.

I should emphasise that though I (just barely) feel intellectually superior to drunk or stoned people, I don’t see myself as morally superior. If you can enjoy using recreational drugs in what for lack of a better term we might call a “responsible” manner, without screwing up your life or crashing your car or beating your spouse or bonking the neighbour, then why not? Most people do, after all. And if drugs do screw up your life, I tend to see it as a medical condition, not a sign of poor moral fibre (whatever that is). A drunk whose marriage collapses is not a bad person who gets what he deserves.

Now, Dear Reader, you most likely do use heavier drugs than caffeine. Please tell us why! Or you may not do so, like me and George Hrab and Milton Mermikidis. And if so, also tell us why!

Update same evening: I forgot to mention that I have no problem with people drinking in my home. We always have alcohol in the cupboard, mainly because my wife drinks very little too so we never run out. And we often offer dinner guests beer and wine. There was this one guy though that I never invited again after he brought a bottle of green Chartreuse liqueur to a party of ours, drank the whole thing (shudder) and got wasted…

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A Strong Smell of Turpentine Prevails Throughout

When I was in school I read a great story about a man who took opium, felt that he had a great philosophical insight, wrote it down, and then found, after sobering up, that what he had written was “I perceive a distinct smell of kerosene”, Jag känner en distinkt doft av fotogen.

Mucking around on the blessed web, I now find that the man was Oliver Wendell Holmes, an American 19th century physician and author. But it was ether, not opium, and turpentine, not kerosene. Here’s what OWH writes in his essay “Mechanism in thought and morals : an address delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Harvard University, June 29, 1870”.

I once inhaled a pretty full dose of ether, with the determination to put on record, at the earliest moment of regaining consciousness, the thought I should find uppermost in my mind. The mighty music of the triumphal march into nothingness reverberated through my brain, and filled me with a sense of infinite possibilities, which made me an archangel for the moment. The veil of eternity was lifted. The one great truth which underlies all human experience, and is the key to all the mysteries that philosophy has sought in vain to solve, flashed upon me in a sudden revelation. Henceforth all was clear: a few words had lifted my intelligence to the level of the knowledge of the cherubim. As my natural condition returned, I remembered my resolution; and, staggering to my desk, I wrote, in ill-shaped straggling letters, the all-embracing truth still glimmering in my consciousness. The words were these (children may smile; the wise will ponder): “A strong smell of turpentine prevails throughout.

This reminds me of a time at a party when one of my buddies was drunkenly talking about how great other drugs than the beer bottle in his hand are, and described some deeply meaningful and intense insights he had attained while tripping on acid. Sadly, as I was sober as always, I failed to see their import. Like my friend the philosopher once said, “When you have that eureka feeling of really having made an intellectual breakthough, you’re generally wrong”.

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Awesome Turkish 70s Psychedelia

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One of the major influences that combined to form Western psychedelic rock was traditional Asian music. But musicians in Asia picked up the vibe pretty quickly and started to play their own versions of it. Lately I’ve been listening to a great compilation of the stuff, and I’m particularly struck by the 1975 track “Gönül Sabreyle Sabreyle” (hear it streamed here). The band playing it is the brother trio Üç Hürel, “The Three Hürels”, and the song’s title would in English be something like “Oh Sabreyle, my heart, Sabreyle”. Reading up about the band on the web, I’ve learned that the Hürel brothers released only two albums before disbanding for decades, and that this track is on the second, more Western-styled one: Hürel Arsivi (1976). Calling them an Asian band isn’t strictly correct though, as they’re from Istanbul.

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The musicianship is great: just listen to the darbouka drum fills. Awesome. And youngest brother Feridun Hürel not only sings his heart out for the apparently cruel and unyielding or otherwise unavailable Sabreyle, he also plays the fuzz guitar solo and the electrified saz solo on the same two-necked instrument, and wrote the song. Talented guy! The song’s clearly a classic in Turkey: poking around I’ve found a number of covers, ranging from overdecorated 80s metal versions to a grizzled guy alone with a saz.

I tried machine-translating the lyrics, but I couldn’t get them to make much sense (“Assortment eating does not always go”, errr…). I’d be much obliged if somebody with the necessary language skills would translate them. Myself, I pretty much only know the Turkish word for “sausage”.

Update same day: Dear Reader Samarkeolog of Human Rights Archaeology came through with a translation! Turns out “sabreyle” is not the name of some dark-eyed Bosporanean wench after all.

Every winter has a spring
Every night has a morning
Enough now leave
The heart with a sword

Every rise has a fall
Surely one day the person will smile
Happiness is a work of patience
The heart with a sword

Grieving does not always go
Spring does not come without patience
This love is not enough for this world
The heart with a sword