International relevance: **
You'd be hard pressed to find anyone any more egomaniacal than Erik Aschan (pronounced Askhan). I doubt any other artist has ever managed to mention his own name as many times on an album than Aschan. But then again, Erik Aschan is no ordinary guy. Of all the Swedish artists, he might be the one most fittingly called an outsider.
Child of a Dutch father and a mother working as a teacher and an actor, Erik Aschan (later Zürcher) was born in Stockholm in 1953. He moved to Västerås (the town made forever famous for being Pugh Rogefeldt's hometown) at an early age. He spent a great deal of his youth in foster care, socialized with biker gangs, before eventually attending art school in Västerås. After a stint in Lund in the south of Sweden, he ends up in Linköping. In the early 70's he started writing his own songs, and after being turned down by several record companies, he put out his debut album by himself in 1973.
His music has always had a strange, offbeat feel, portraying Aschan as someone who never quite fits in with society, always slightly incapable in terms of relations with other people. I can't put my finger on exactly why, but there's something eerie about a lot of his songs, something so alienated that you can't help but feel uneasy listening to them. Actually, I've never been able to quite get my head around the Aschan character, but that is part of the appeal. Sometimes it's hard to take him seriously, even though his songs always have a profound serious strain, and sometimes the music is so touching that it's impossible to turn away from it. ”You might think I'm ridiculous, but I'm dead serious, I mean every word I say”, he sings. Well, it took me many, many years to actually listen to it in a serious way. But things change.
His first two albums are four years apart, whereas ”Så länge ni vägrar att lyssna”, his third, appeared two years after his second, in 1979. The lyrics, all sung in Swedish, range from the pathetic and downright untalented to the poetically sensitive. The arrangements are sparse with Aschan's acoustic guitar at the core, laced with a soft electric bass and the occassional brittle electric guitar. I've seen dealers trying to pass off this album as something similar to Nick Drake, but regardless of its acoustic nature, the comparison is just silly. Erik Aschan is nowhere near Drake, neither in performance, nor lyrical sensibilities.
But yes, there is something about this album. Aschan is certainly progg in feel and execution (mening, it's more important to express yourself than to do it perfect), yet he's so far removed from anything typical to progg. He's far removed from just about everything. He's a rare bird, seemingly completely unaware of what's actually ”appropriate” to sing about. Or how to write a lyric. I doubt there's ever been anyone coming up with a song title like ”Du går fram som en slåttermaskin” - ”You go on like a mower”. Erik Aschan simply doesn't look upon the world as most others do. A lost soul in a cold world.
Of his original albums, ”Så länge ni vägrar lyssna” is the best. It was originally released in 300 copies, but had a second pressing of a further 5-600 copies, making it his best distributed album. You can occassionally find it in thrift stories and second hand shops, but as interest in outsider music and Swedish progg continue to grow, it's getting harder and harder to come by. However, some songs from ”Så länge ni vägrar lyssna” (along with selections from his other albums) are available for download on Aschan's website: http://akultur.org/aschan/mp3.html. Unfortunately, the best track off the album isn't there, the decidedly creepy and Bobb Trimble-like "Det liv du stal ifrån mig (Black Mother)".