Wednesday, September 27, 2017

SOGMUSOBIL – Telefon (Gump, 1971)

International relevance: ***
Swedish and English vocals

Sogmusobil were one of the first generation progg bands along with Träd, Gräs & Stenar, Fläsket Brinner and Samla Mammas Manna, starting out as a six-piece curiously known as Telefon Paisa. Einar Heckscher, wild man poet and founding member told the Arkivet podcast/website that they got the name Telefon Paisa ”from the idea that if every person in the world had a telephone and some pocket money for the call there would be peace on Earth (paisa is a subdivision of the Indian rupee where a paisa equals 1/64 of a rupee)”. When three of the original members left the band shortly before recording ”Telefon”, they changed the name to the even more curious Sogmusobil (the origins of the name in question is well documented; it's an abbreviation of ”Stark och god musik utföres snabbt och billigt", roughly meaning ”strong and good music performed fast and cheap” in English).

Sogmusobil's live shows were famed – or infamous – for being shambolic happenings, as confirmed by a surviving live recording from Moderna Museet (the Museum of Modern Art) in Stockholm in August 1970. Noodling and rambling, they sometimes happen to make the music gel, but a lot of the time, they appear so out of it with Heckscher apparently freeforming lyrics over a untogether mess of group noise. Judging by that, it's pretty amazing that they even managed to get an album done.

”Telefon” is indeed an acquired taste. Approaching it for the first time, it helps being accustomed to Red Krayola's 1967 album ”The Parable of Arable Land”, ESP-Disk' act The Godz, and the stoned out freak jams of Hapshash and the Coloured Coat saved for posterity on their debut album. In short, ”Telefon” is very much a product of its time. It does have some appeal if you're in the right frame of mind, but if not and most often, it's merely a nerve-grating endurance test – ”psychedelic” at its worst. "Tjackvalsen" is pretty good but the stand-out track is the hard driving album opener ”Arabic in the Morning”, somewhat resembling Hawkwind and included on the 4CD box set alphabetically chronicling the evolution of progg, ”Pregnant Rainbows For Colourblind Dreamers” (released in 2007, but sadly long deleted).

Vastly overrated, ”Telefon” had an eagerly anticipated limited re-release a couple of years back, not affecting the value of original copies on the Gump imprint – prepare yourself for an asking price of at least €500 for a decent copy. Unless you're lucky enough to stumble across a copy priced based on musical value...

Two years after the release of Sogmusobil's sole album, Heckscher and Norweigan keyboard player Johnny Mowinckel (formerly of Atlantic Ocean and Fläsket Brinner) reformed Telefon Paisa, using yet a new name, Levande Livet. As such they recorded one album, the largely under-appreciated ”Strömmens pärla”.

Mowinckel kept playing music after the demise of Levande Livet but made only a few appearances in public, according to Wikipedia Sweden ”due to a rough life”. Unexpectedly, he released an album of electro-acoustic music in the mid 90's, ”Skisser från Flen”. Mowinckel passed away in 2015 after a period of illness. Colourful character Heckscher on the other hand established himself as a comparably successful author and translator of the works of Charles Bukowski, Jack Keuroac, Thomas Pynchon, Louis-Ferdinand Céline and the likes. In the early 00's, Swedish National Television produced a 47 minute documentary on Heckscher.

Arabic in the Morning + Lost Identity

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